Framingham officials hire lawyers for SMOC suit

Framingham officials hire lawyers for SMOC suit Thursday, December 13, 2007
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Several of the town officials named as defendants in the federal discrimination case brought by SMOC in October have hired private attorneys to defend them in the matter.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Jason Smith said he hired a lawyer to represent his individual interests the day after he was served with the complaint, bringing on William T. Hogan III to defend him.

Smith, though, said he is strongly in favor of the board's decision to hire Mintz Levin attorney Jeffrey Robbins to defend the town and a dozen officials SMOC claims were part of "a coordinated effort" against disabled people.

"I thought (personal) representation was needed immediately," Smith said when asked about his reasons for hiring Hogan, who joined colleague David E. Fialkow of Boston firm Nelson Mullins in appearing on Smith's behalf in U.S. District Court in Boston this week.

The same is true for Town Meeting members Laurie Lee and Steven Orr, who are also among the group who have hired attorneys to represent them in the SMOC case.  Other defendants are likely to do so as well, said Robbins.

"There are a lot of bases for dismissing a lot of the claims in this case," he said.  "It's a good thing when all of those reasons can be placed before the court, It helps to have a number of people to show those reasons."

Lee's attorneys, Douglas I. Louison and Valerie A. McCormack, appeared on her behalf earlier this month.  Orr's lawyer, Wayne Henderson, has not made an appearance in the case.

Town Manager Julian Suso said he has no plans to hire a personal attorney.  Other defendants in the case include Human Services coordinator Alexis Silver; Selectmen Ginger Esty and Dennis Giombetti; Planning Board members Sue Bernstein, Andrea Carr-Evans, Carol Spack and Ann Welles; and Town Meeting members Peter Adams and Cynthia Laurora.

Adams has said he planned to hire a private lawyer, but none have appeared on his behalf in the SMOC case.

SMOC also named private citizens Anthony Siciliano and Harold Wolfe as defendants in the case.  Siciliano hired John St. Andre to represent him, while Wolfe is still looking for legal representation.

All defendants will be invited to mediation sessions next month with SMOC before retired federal magistrate Charles Swartwood III.

"I don't need a lawyer to go to mediation," said Wolfe.  "This thing is going to go on for a while, so I don't see any particular rush."

Having public officials hire personal attorneys to represent them is "very typical," said Robbins.  He does not see the decision by those people to hire other legal representation as a swipe at his ability to defend them.

In fact, Robbins has met with several of the private lawyers hired by the defendants to discuss the case in the weeks since Town Meeting approved the creation of a special account and $150,000 transfer from the town's reserve fund that allowed selectmen to hire Mintz Levin.

All of the town officials named as defendants were sued in their public roles and as individuals.

"As this shakes out, our representation is going to focus on the town," said Robbins.  "It's my job to make sure the town collectively has a vigorous defense.  I expect to play a principal role in that effort, but I expect it will be a very collaborative effort."

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