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License chairman quits; accused of taking favors; Free drinks and meals.

Byline: Milton J. Valencia

WORCESTER - The chairman of the city's License Commission, which regulates bars and clubs, has resigned amid allegations he used his influence for free drinks and meals and other favors, the Telegram & Gazette has learned.

Sources said that Francis X. Sena is the subject of an ethics and criminal investigation, and submitted his resignation after he learned the probe was under way. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

City Manager Michael V. O'Brien confirmed that Mr. Sena resigned on Friday, citing health and personal issues. Mr. Sena has been a member of the commission since May 2000.

The manager said he will work with his citizen advisory committee to select a replacement after the position is properly advertised. He said he will work quickly to fill the position, while allowing for the best selection process.

License Commissioner Kevin O'Sullivan said he was contacted by the city manager over the weekend and asked to serve as chairman of the commission. The next meeting is March 1.

Mr. O'Sullivan said he was only told by the city manager that Mr. Sena had resigned for medical and health issues.

"I thought it was a courtesy call from him," Mr. O'Sullivan said. "I didn't say anything, and he didn't say anything to me. My attitude is we just go forward."

Commissioner Peter M. Lukes, the third member of the three-person panel, said he was told of the resignation yesterday.

Mr. Sena repeated yesterday that he resigned for personal and medical issues, and for no other reasons.

"My record speaks for itself," he said. He would not comment on the allegations of receiving complimentary drinks and meals.

He has been the subject of a lengthy investigation into his relationship with local bars and restaurants, however, according to sources. A complaint was filed with the state Ethics Commission, the Telegram & Gazette has learned.

A spokesman for the state Ethics Commission, citing state law, said the agency does not confirm or deny investigations, or whether it has received a complaint.

An official at the agency said it can take from weeks to years to investigate a complaint, depending on the allegations.

Sources said Mr. Sena has used his power as chairman of the commission to get free drinks and meals for himself and people accompanying him at local restaurants. He would return the favor by promising support on the License Commission floor during license hearings, including disciplinary hearings, sources said.

There are no indications he received any money for his support. Mr. Sena has not been charged with any crime.

Mr. Sena has spoken out against bars that violate License Commission rules and regulations, although he has also often been the minority vote of support on issues from disciplinary hearings to change of hours requests. Last year, he was a strong supporter of restaurants on Shrewsbury Street that tried to extend their hours of operation to 2 a.m. At the time, the requests failed, with politicians and residents from the area opposing the extension. Mr. Sena typically cast the only vote in favor of the businesses.

He has often said during License Commission hearings that he was pro-business, and supported anyone trying to run a restaurant or bar in Worcester.

John Piccolo, owner of Piccolo's, 157 Shrewsbury St., is one restaurant owner who often received Mr. Sena's support. He called the chairman a professional who acted in support of businesses trying to survive. He said Mr. Sena has visited his restaurant before, but said he and members of his party always receive a bill. He also said Mr. Lukes and Mr. O'Sullivan also visit the restaurant and receive bills.

The owner of another city restaurant said he has also had Mr. Sena as a customer, and he said a bill was always issued and paid. By state law, it is illegal for a bar or restaurant to give out free drinks.



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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 21, 2007
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