|Resident gains extension in SMOC lawsuit||Wednesday, November 21, 2007|
|D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429||Metrowest Daily News|
FRAMINGHAM - A federal judge yesterday granted one of the two private citizens sued by SMOC in last month's federal action an extension to Dec. 17 to respond to the claims against him.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock approved the extension for Anthony Siciliano of Patricia Road, who was joined by Harold Wolfe of Delmar Avenue as the only private citizens named by South Middlesex Opportunity Council in the 99-page lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court in Boston.
SMOC singled out Siciliano because of several e-mails he sent to Framingham Neighbors (frambors.syslang.net), a townwide discussion group centered on local government.
Siciliano has posted "hateful, false and defamatory statements about SMOC and its disabled clients," including calling SMOC's clients "criminals," "dregs of society," and "as useless to society as a dead dog," according to SMOC's lawsuit.
Siciliano requested the extension in part because he recently hired an attorney to represent him, and in part because Woodlock last week granted an extension to the town officials group for their responses to the lawsuit.
Both extension requests were agreed to by SMOC.
Siciliano is represented by Framingham attorney John St. Andre, who is not related to Town Counsel Chris Petrini's co-worker Barbara St. Andre. Efforts to reach John St. Andre yesterday were not successful.
Town officials named as defendants in the lawsuit, which alleges the group engaged in "a coordinated effort" to push disabled people out of town, are Town Manager Julian Suso; Human Services Coordinator Alexis Silver; Selectmen Ginger Esty, Dennis Giombetti and Jason Smith; Planning Board members Sue Bernstein, Andrea Carr-Evans, Carol Spack and Ann Welles; and Town Meeting members Peter Adams, Cynthia Laurora, Laurie Lee and Steven Orr.
Petrini and SMOC attorney Howard Cooper are hoping to work out a plan for professional mediation in the case, which was part of the reason Petrini asked for an extension for the officials.
Petrini has estimated the lawsuit will cost at least $500,000 if it is not settled. Outside attorneys, including at least one First Amendment lawyer, would likely be hired to defend the town against SMOC's claims, he said.
Town Meeting will decide next week whether to add money to the town's legal budget to defend the SMOC case. The special session, triggered by a petition drive, is set to begin Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Nevins Hall.
Siciliano and Wolfe are the only defendants in the lawsuit who will not be covered under the town's legal budget.
Wolfe, who created the Web site www.smocingham.org, has not hired a lawyer, but is awaiting a response from the Center for Individual Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union about defending him.
He sent his response to SMOC's attorneys two weeks ago but has not filed an official response with the court.
In his response, Wolfe thanked SMOC officials "very much" for the lawsuit and promised to "vigorously defend myself against these ridiculous allegations."
"I do believe my freedom of speech is being suppressed because I am a private citizen with no decision making capability and I am being sued for defamation with public funds by an agency or contractor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," Wolfe wrote in his Nov. 8 response to SMOC's lawyers.
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