Mayor Jon Mitchell and two members of the New Bedford City Council have accepted campaign contributions from marijuana companies that have a tentative Host Community Agreement to sell marijuana in the city.

Courtesy City of New Bedford

The Standard-Times reports Mitchell has accepted a $600 contribution from Michael Damaso and Troy Demelo of Southcoast Apothecary.

Jon Faria/Townsquare Media

At-Large Councilor Ian Abreu, who chairs the council's Cannabis Regulation Committee, has received $250 in contributions from the owners of Tree Beard LLC and $250 from developer Michael Panagakos, who would rent space to Tree Beard LLC for its marijuana dispensary should the company be granted final approval by state and local officials.

Courtesy Hugh Dunn

Ward 3's Hugh Dunn, who chairs the council's Ordinance Committee, has received donations from Tree Beard LLC totaling $260.

I am not for a moment suggesting that the donations are illegal or that Mitchell, Abreu, and Dunn are anything less than honest and honorable men. What I am suggesting is that the optics stink.

It looks bad for these men to accept campaign contributions from marijuana companies who have been granted Host Community Agreements in light of what just occurred in Fall River. Fall River's embattled Mayor Jasiel Correia is facing federal corruption indictments for allegedly extorting money from marijuana companies looking to do business in his city.

Anything that could even suggest a hint of impropriety should be avoided at all costs as the public grows weary and suspicious of the siting process.

Mayor Mitchell and Councilors Abreu and Dunn should know better than to take campaign contributions from companies who are in negotiations with the City for a scant number of licenses to sell marijuana here. They should return the contributions immediately in a good faith effort to assure the public has confidence in the system.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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