Town Meeting member calls for resignations over SMOC lawsuit

Town Meeting member calls for resignations over SMOC lawsuit October 31, 2007
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News

FRAMINGHAM - A Town Meeting member last night called for Town Manager Julian Suso, Human Services Coordinator Alexis Silver and three selectmen to resign "so this town can move forward'' from a lawsuit filed by SMOC.

Precinct 10 Town Meeting member Lloyd Kaye told selectmen he "knew (the federal lawsuit) was coming'' after watching town officials continue to put the squeeze on social service agencies over the last couple of years.

He said town leaders should make the $100 million effort to update water and sewer pipes and roads a priority over the lawsuit, filed last week by South Middlesex Opportunity Council in U.S. District Court in Boston.

In its filing, SMOC alleges "a coordinated effort'' by town administrators, three selectmen, four Planning Board members, several Town Meeting members and two other residents to rid the town of its disabled population.

The 99-page complaint, which also includes more than 90 exhibits, alleges violations of the Fair Housing Act, federal Rehabilitation Act, Americans With Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act.

The suit asks the court to award SMOC "punitive and exemplary'' damages; require Framingham to comply with all federal and state laws; take supervisory jurisdiction over Framingham's actions; require Framingham to issue a permanent occupancy permit for Sage House, a SMOC home for former addicts and their families; award all required permits for Larry's Place, a proposed home for disabled homeless veterans; and attorneys' fees.

Suso, selectmen Chairman Dennis Giombetti, Vice Chairman Jason Smith and board member Ginger Esty said last night they won't resign. Efforts to reach Alexis Silver last night were not successful.

"(Resigning) never even crossed my mind,'' said Smith. "I was elected by the people of Framingham to do a job, and I'm going to continue to do that job.''

Giombetti said he has "no intention'' of giving up his seat, while Esty said she is "absolutely not'' going to resign. Suso "won't dignify (Kaye's suggestion) with a comment.''

"We'll continue to display how discussion and debate should be handled: professionally and respectfully,'' said Giombetti.

Officials have focused on asking for PILOT payments from the agencies and toughened standards of local review for projects the agencies hope to bring to Framingham, said Kaye.

"We're wasting an unbelievable amount of time on something we're never going to get a dime on,'' he said. "There was no other way (for SMOC to react than file a lawsuit).''

Early estimates by Town Counsel Chris Petrini put the cost of defending the federal lawsuit at $500,000. A petition calling for a special Town Meeting on increasing the legal budget to defend the lawsuit is expected to be submitted to Town Clerk Valerie Mulvey's office by the end of the week.

Petition organizer and Town Meeting member Janet Leombruno said last night the effort had collected 400 to 500 signatures, at least double the minimum 200 required to trigger the special session.

"The town is standing behind all of you,'' said Leombruno.

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