fb-pixel Skip to main content

Walsh replaces all Boston Licensing Board members

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, exercising new authority granted by the Legislature, ousted all three members of Boston’s Licensing Board, replacing them with his own appointees.

Walsh announced the move Wednesday in a press release that touted the new appointees but made no mention of former board members whose six-year terms were cut short. For more than a century, the board that controls liquor licenses had been appointed by the governor, but a state law passed earlier this year returned the authority to the mayor.

The Licensing Board’s newly appointed chairwoman is Christine A. Pulgini, a lawyer whose family law firm in Hyde Park was adorned with large “Walsh for Mayor” signs during last year’s campaign. Pulgini, who recently moved from Dedham to Hyde Park, contributed the maximum of $500 to Walsh’s campaign the last two years, according to state campaign finance records.


One of the ousted board members, Suzanne Iannella, had a term that ran until 2020, according to the city’s website. Some of Iannella’s family members were supporters of Walsh’s opponent, John R. Connolly.

In an interview Wednesday, Iannella said she was told Monday she was being removed from the board.

“I really wasn’t so surprised,” said Iannella, who had been reappointed in June. “I understand that the mayor wants to have his team.”

Walsh’s press secretary, Kate Norton, said politics played no role in the overhaul of the board.

Walsh, in a press release, said: “The changes we’ve made to the city’s Licensing Board and our approach to licensing across the city presents a fresh opportunity to support economic development across our neighborhoods.”

The overhaul altered the demographic composition of the board, leaving it without a Latino member, according to Walsh’s press office.

The change occurred the day after the administration released a report from an advocacy organization highlighting the underrepresentation of Latinos in city government.


The changes on the Licensing Board were part of a broader shake-up the last few weeks at City Hall as the new administration continued to take shape nearly a year after Walsh took office. Other changes included the resignation of Robert Shortsleeve, chairman of Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal, who said in an interview Wednesday he voluntarily stepped down.

“After 14 years of service to the city, I decided it was time to focus on other things,” Shortsleeve said.

Walsh’s scheduler, Pamela Carver, is moving out of the fifth-floor mayor’s office for a new job at the Licensing Board, Norton said.

Carver worked for Walsh when he was a state legislator and came with him to City Hall. Earlier this year when a reporter asked about women in influential posts in the mayor’s office, Walsh said Carver “probably has more power than anybody in the place.”

Members of the Licensing Board, whose positions are regarded as full-time, regulate everything from hotels to fortune tellers, but their most consequential power is over liquor licenses, which have long been contentious.

Liquor licenses can help spur economic development, but the number is limited by the state. Liquor licenses historically have been difficult to obtain, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Councilor Ayanna Pressley spearheaded an effort to overhaul the Licensing Board, a push that was championed by Walsh. The Legislature increased the city’s limit of licenses by 75 and returned local control of the board to Boston’s mayor for the first time since 1906. Pressley issued a statement Wednesday thanking outgoing board members for their service.


“We’ve increased the number of licenses. This is where the real work begins,” Pressley said in an interview, adding that local control will allow for more transparency. “I would love to see the operations of the board viewed online, and the overall improvement of community and resident feedback.”

One of the other new appointees to the licensing board was Lisa S. Maki, a lawyer who lives in South Boston. Maki has worked for the city’s Law Department since 2010, according to Walsh’s press release.

The third new member was Keeana Serene Saxon, a lawyer who lives in Roxbury. Saxon had worked as general counsel to the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, according to the release.

The members of the new board began their six-year terms on Monday. Salaries are set by state law, according to the mayor’s office.

As chairwoman, Pulgini will be paid $100,000 annually, and Maki and Saxon will earn $85,000. None responded to an interview request made through the mayor’s press office.

One of the other ousted board members was Milton L. Wright Jr., whose term ran until 2016. Wright is a retired first justice from Roxbury District Court who is well known in the African-American community. Wright could not be reached for comment.

The third member removed by Walsh was Nicole Murati Ferrer, whose term ran until 2018.

Ferrer will remain employed by the city and is “transitioning to a different role,” according to Norton, Walsh’s press secretary.


“Suzanne Iannella and Milton Wright are no longer employed by the City of Boston,” Norton said in an e-mail. “We do not disclose the reasons for separation from employment.”

Andrew Ryan can be reached at andrew.ryan@globe.com. Sean P. Murphy and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.