Hearings begin for suspended pot boss Shannon O’Brien

Suspended Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Shannon O’Brien (right) arrives for a series of hearings with Treasurer Deb Goldberg that could end in O’Brien’s removal from the state board. (Chris Van Buskirk/Boston Herald)

A series of hearings that could culminate in the removal of suspended Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Shannon O’Brien from her position began Thursday in a dull conference room in Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s office.

The two-day hearings will take place behind closed doors after a state judge ruled last year against O’Brien’s efforts to keep the meetings public. O’Brien and Goldberg arrived about half an hour before the first five-hour session was to begin.

An attorney for O’Brien, Howard Cooper, declined to comment when asked if he had goals for the hearings. Goldberg did not answer questions from reporters as she walked into the meeting.

The meetings culminate a months-long saga that began after Goldberg abruptly suspended O’Brien from her position following “several serious allegations” later alleged to have been racially insensitive comments, including referring to Asian people as “yellow.”

O’Brien has denied the allegations and instead argued unsuccessfully in court that Goldberg was too intertwined with the state cannabis commission’s human resources to oversee the hearings.

But Goldberg will ultimately make the final decision on O’Brien’s appointment to the Cannabis Control Commission, although the hearings will feature an independent mediator, Thomas Maffei, an attorney with the firm Sherin and Lodgen.