SMOC mediation scrapped

SMOC mediation scrapped Friday, January 11, 2008
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
An attempt to mediate the federal discrimination lawsuit between SMOC and a dozen town officials was scrapped yesterday after the second day, with sides canceling a scheduled third session next week.

The next step in the case, filed by South Middlesex Opportunity Council in October in U.S. District Court in Boston, is a scheduling conference set for Jan. 22.

"Out of respect for the privacy of the process, we have no comment other than to say we're very disappointed," said SMOC spokeswoman Jane Lane.  Efforts to reach SMOC attorney Howard Cooper yesterday were unsuccessful.

Jeffrey Robbins, the lawyer representing Framingham town officials, said last week he did not expect the mediation sessions to be successful and even wondered if the third session would happen.

Robbins could not give details of the mediation session or discuss how long the sides met or even say whether both sides agreed not to hold the third day of mediation with retired federal magistrate Charles Swartwood III.

"Sadly, the low expectations we had for mediation were realized," he said yesterday.

SMOC's case charges town officials and two private citizens with engaging in "a coordinated effort" to rid the town of disabled people, saying it wants its permits for two pending building projects and oversight of town boards by federal agencies in the future.

Defendants include Town Manager Julian Suso, Human Services Coordinator Alexis Silver, three selectmen, four Planning Board members, four Town Meeting members and private citizens Anthony Siciliano and Harold Wolfe.

Robbins expects his firm to file more public records requests related to the SMOC case soon, saying he also plans to talk to witnesses who have come forward or whom he and his colleagues have approached.

"The town very much looks forward to obtaining evidence from SMOC in its effort to show that the allegations made by SMOC in this case are meritless," said Robbins.

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