Past lawsuits against Framingham Friday, October 26, 2007
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Although the federal lawsuit filed by SMOC against town officials and residents Wednesday could become the most costly, this is not the first time the legal bud get will find itself stretched.

The case filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, charging "an unlawful pattern o f discrimination" against handicapped people, is the 10th major case filed again st Framingham officials in the last several years, said Town Counsel Chris Petri ni.

In addition to appeals of town board denials brought by the South Middlesex Oppo rtunity Council, Wayside Youth and Family Support Network and Great Brook Valley Health Center, town officials have also had to defend against:

* A Fair Labor Standards Act complaint brought by about 90 police officers f ocused on alleged unfair provisions on overtime payments for two decades * A pair of cases brought by Paulini Loam after the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected plans for a concrete plant * An appeal of the Planning Board's rejection of Nexum Development's plans f or a cluster development on Nixon Road.

"Hopefully this is the last major case for a long time," said Petrini.  "It's a lot to manage, and obviously it puts major stress on the legal budget.  These are precedent-setting cases and obviously the town needs to make a decision on wheth er to defend itself, which generally they decide to do."

Yesterday, Town Meeting member Janet Leombruno announced through Framingham Neig hbors that she is launching a signature drive to call for a special Town Meeting to buttress the town's legal budget to defend against the SMOC case.

Petitioners need 200 signatures from registered voters to trigger a special sess ion.

Town Meeting briefly discussed adding more money to the legal budget at Wednesda y's special session, but the motion failed after many members said they didn't k now how much would be needed for the SMOC case.  Members, however, did approve Petrini's request for an additional $175,000 - on top of the original fiscal 2008 allocation of $610,000 - for the Paulini and police union cases.

Petrini isn't sure how much it will cost to defend the SMOC case.

"It's going to be substantial," he said.  "At this point, I can't begin to estima te it."

Three other major cases against Framingham have been settled in the past year.  They include one filed by SMOC regarding its planned move of Sage House from 61 C linton St. to 517 Winter St. and two centered around Wayside Youth and Family Su pport Network's plans for a campus on Lockland Avenue.

Neither Petrini nor officials in Town Manager Julian Suso's office could provide the total amount spent by the town on specific cases yesterday.

Wayside representatives and town officials agreed to a plan to monitor traffic a t the facility, while the organization dropped a civil rights suit against Frami ngham and agreed to pay $80,000 for improvements around the property.  Earlier, a Land Court judge ruled in favor of Wayside in another suit, brought by the Suck er Pond Neighborhood Association.

SMOC is still waiting for its final occupancy permit after the Planning Board ap proved its plans for Sage House.  The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction ordering Framingham to issue a permanent occupancy permit within three days for Sage House's new location.

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