By Tom Dalton
SALEM — The city's Licensing Board has taken disciplinary action against a prominent Salem witch and psychic who allegedly made threats on Facebook and other places against several city fortunetellers and store owners.
Following a closed-door hearing Tuesday night, the board voted to suspend Christian Day's fortunetelling license for six months. However, the penalty was put on hold for one year as long as there are no similar incidents.
"If any substantiated threats happen again within one year, he will be called in, and the suspension will be imposed," City Solicitor Beth Rennard said.
Some of the alleged threats stem from business disputes over which psychics can work in stores and exclusive vendor deals to sell wands and other items, according to several people at the hearing.
Day owns two witch shops in the downtown and runs Festival of the Dead, a series of balls and related events at Halloween. He also is on the board of Destination Salem, the city's tourism agency.
"I respect the decision of the board, even though I may not agree entirely with it," he said.
Day said he does not believe anything that he wrote constituted a threat.
"There were arguments on Facebook," he said. "I don't believe they rose to the level of threats."
The hearing, which was closed to the public and press, was called after an investigation by Lt. Andre Ouellette, a special police investigator assigned to the Licensing Board. In addition to Ouellette, two police detectives attended the hearing, Detective Sgt. Jim Page and Detective John Doyle.
Rennard, who spoke for the board, said Ouellette had received "complaints from some of the licensed fortunetellers and/or (owners of fortunetelling businesses) that one of the license holders, Christian Day, was making threats to them on Facebook and/or emails ... and they took these threats as both harassing them and also physical threats."
She declined to disclose details of any of the alleged threats.
Citing the state's Open Meeting Law, Rennard said the board held a closed meeting to hear "complaints or charges" brought against an individual.
The fortunetellers or store owners who testified at Tuesday's meeting included, among others, Deliela Bettencourt and her husband, Natal, of Witch's Hide; Joanna Thomas and Karl Sirois of New England Magic; Linda Weinbaum, an independent psychic; and Elizabeth Chapman, according to city officials.
One of the witnesses had mixed feelings about the board's decision.
"We appreciate that the Licensing Board ruled in our favor," Thomas said. "However, we believe the punishment enforced upon Christian Day was not adequate or harsh enough due to the severity of his behavior and actions."
Ouellette, the police investigator, has been looking into the fortunetelling infighting for several weeks. He declined to comment when reached yesterday, referring inquiries to Rennard.
In recent weeks, several fortunetellers have sought civil harassment complaints in District Court.
The hearing Tuesday at 120 Washington Street went on for more than four hours. Several people who came to speak against Day were not called by the board, according to Thomas. There was also a group of Day supporters present.
In a telephone interview, Day said he did not fault the board for its decision.
"I'm not speaking against the decision of the Licensing Board," he said. "They have to do what they've got to do. They are very respectable people. I have no qualms with any of them. ... It's a contentious business community here in Salem."
Day said there are people within the fortunetelling community who "would rather fight with one another than be successful," and that some people are jealous of his success.
Day said he was responding to things written about him on various Facebook sites.
"There were a lot of accusations made about me I don't think were fair," he said. Day said he has been accused of "everything from drug dealing to murder." He did not say who made any of those allegations.
At the hearing, Day said he submitted a petition of support signed by more than 25 Salem business owners.
"I think, going forward, I would just prefer to focus on the positive," he said, "and not worry about things people say about me on Facebook."