Selectmen schedule special Town Meeting for Nov. 27 Wednesday, November 7, 2007
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Selectmen last night set a special Town Meeting for Nov. 27, with the only article focused on beefing up the legal budget to cover the federal lawsuit filed by SMOC against several town officials and residents.

The special session was triggered by a petition drive led by Precinct 5 Town Meeting member Janet Leombruno that netted more than 500 signatures, with some estimates putting the unofficial total at 700 or more signatures.

In its lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Boston, the South Middlesex Opportunity Council alleges "a coordinated effort" by the defendants to rid the town of its disabled population.

Among those being sued are Town Manager Julian Suso, Human Services Coordinator Alexis Silver, selectmen Dennis Giombetti, Jason Smith and Ginger Esty, Planning Board members Ann Welles, Carol Spack, Sue Bernstein and Andrea Carr-Evans, Town Meeting members Peter Adams, Cynthia Laurora, Laurie Lee and Steven Orr, and private citizens Anthony Siciliano and Harold Wolfe.  All but Siciliano and Wolfe will be covered by the town's legal budget.

Town Counsel Chris Petrini estimated the case could cost the town well in excess of $500,000 to defend itself if it goes forward.  The Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association will pick up some of the cost, but selectmen are likely to be asked to hire special attorneys for First Amendment and other issues outside of Petrini's typical expertise.

Town Meeting member Dawn Harkness, among the signers of the petition, said last night she affixed her name to the document because she wanted Town Meeting to have a chance to discuss its commitment to defending the case.

"How far is this town willing to fight, to the Supreme Court?" Harkness asked at last night's selectmen meeting.  "It's an embarrassment that some of the things that are alleged in this lawsuit may have happened."

Fellow Town Meeting member Robert Bolles said SMOC "should be unequivocally ashamed" for attempting to intimidate people from expressing their opinions on social service agencies by filing the lawsuit.

He asked selectmen to press the town's legislators to file bills to repeal the state's Dover Amendment, which limits the amount of local review town boards can have over religious or educational projects slated to move into town.

Many of SMOC's programs are protected by the Dover Amendment because of the counseling or other similar services they provide.

"I ask this board not to submit to these threats and to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court," said Bolles.

Send comments to: