HAVERHILL — For the first time in at least a decade, city councilors are considering meeting in secret tonight to discuss a police recommendation that the council reject a request from American Transportation Taxi Service to renew its cab license.
Cab company owner Dean Manemanus’ license expired in May, but he is allowed to continue operating two taxi cabs until the council makes a decision on his license renewal, police Chief Alan DeNaro said.
A legal opinion from Kopelman and Paige, a Boston law firm that works for the city, said it would be appropriate to discuss parts of the police report that implicate Manemanus’ privacy or reputation behind closed doors.
The ruling was sought from the city’s outside legal counsel because City Solicitor William Cox has worked as a private attorney in the past for Manemanus on matters unrelated to the taxi license.
“Where the licensing authority appropriately considers the results of a background or CORI (criminal offender record information) check as part of a hearing process, discussion in open session of the contents of such background or CORI check might potentially violate the applicant’s privacy rights or potentially harm the applicant’s reputation,” the Kopelman and Paige opinion said, in part.
The legal opinion notes, however, that is ultimately up to councilors whether they want to discuss any part of a license renewal in secret.
The opinion said Manemanus’ lawyer, Paul Magliocchetti, requested an executive session with the council to discuss his client’s license application.
In a phone interview, Magliocchetti said it doesn’t matter to him how the council handles the matter, but that he asked for an opinion from the city about whether it would be appropriate to discuss the police report in public because it includes allegations that Manemanus denies.
Magliocchetti declined to discuss the allegations against Manemanus or provide a copy of the police report.
“There hasn’t been one complaint against my client or his taxi cab company,” Magliocchetti said, noting that Manemanus has been providing taxi service in Haverhill since 2010.
Magliocchetti also noted the city would be giving a monopoly to the only other cab service in Haverhill, Family Cab, if the council shuts down Manemanus.
Family Cab operates about a dozen cabs, while American Transportation Taxi Service is licensed for just two vehicles, city officials said.
DeNaro said the police letter in opposition to Manemanus’ license renewal was written by another one of his officers, but that he could not provide it to The Eagle-Tribune due to the Kopelman and Paige opinion on the matter.
Mayor James Fiorentini responded to a reporter’s request for the police report by providing a copy of the Kopelman and Paige opinion. The mayor’s response did not address the request for the police report.
City Councilor William Ryan said he intends to oppose any attempt by his colleagues to discuss any part of the license renewal in secret.
“This is a taxi in the city and he should not get any special consideration,” Ryan said of Manemanus. “This should be vetted publicly so everyone can listen in, not done in secret.
“Everyone should hear why the police chief denied it,” Ryan said of the license renewal. “He must have some good reasons for denying it because I have never heard of a police denying this kind of thing. I’ll protest any attempt do to this in secret.”
Council President Robert Scatamacchia suggested meeting behind closed doors would not be a secret meeting because the council intends to post the date, time and reason for the private meeting.
“This would be a legal executive session and we would be following the law,” Scatamacchia said.