Town lawyer steps away from SMOC suit

Town lawyer steps away from SMOC suit Sunday, December 15, 2007
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Town Counsel Chris Petrini says there's nothing to be read into his withdrawal as counsel for eight municipal officials sued by SMOC in October for alleged discrimination.

Petrini will continue to play an important role in the case, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, said Mintz Levin attorney Jeffrey Robbins, who was hired as special counsel in the case late last month.

"This has been planned from the beginning," said Petrini.  "There is no controversy about this.  It's been discussed and considered from the start."

Petrini described his role in the case moving forward as a provider of background information, a gatherer of information and a general assistant to Robbins and his firm.

He could also be called as a witness in the case, which was part of the impetus to remove himself as a lawyer in the matter.

In a motion filed Thursday, Petrini withdrew as counsel for Town Manager Julian Suso, Human Resources Director Alexis Silver, selectmen Ginger Esty and Dennis Giombetti and Planning Board members Sue Bernstein, Andrea Carr-Evans, Carol Spack and Ann Welles.

The move coincided with the eight town officials hiring John J. Davis and Seth B.  Barnett of Boston firm Pierce, Davis and Perritano to represent them in the case, which charges them with being part of "a coordinated effort" to rid Framingham of its disabled population.

Petrini plans to withdraw as counsel for Town Meeting members Peter Adams, Cynthia Laurora, Laurie Lee and Steven Orr as well as for the town in a future filing, he said yesterday.

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.

Laurora would not say if she has hired a lawyer, and Adams could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"As soon as they all have counsel, I'll withdraw my name," said Petrini.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Jason Smith, also a defendant in the SMOC case, hired William T. Hogan III as his lawyer shortly after receiving the complaint.

Private citizen Anthony Siciliano hired John St. Andre to represent him in the case, while fellow resident Harold Wolfe has not hired a lawyer yet.

The sides will attempt to mediate the dispute next month, with retired federal magistrate Charles Swartwood III hearing the matter.

Petrini will remain involved in the case, said Robbins.

"He's an immense resource for the defendants and the town," he said.  "As town counsel, it was the better course of action for him not to be the counsel of record in this case."

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