Are SMOC talks back on?

Are SMOC talks back on? Friday, January 18, 2008
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - The lawyer representing town officials in a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by SMOC in October said he's baffled about why the social service agency says mediation will be restarted in the case.

"There have been no mediation sessions scheduled, none suggested, none proposed and none asked for," said attorney Jeffrey Robbins, responding to a three-paragraph statement sent by SMOC spokeswoman Jane Lane yesterday.

In that statement, which confirmed that two defendants were dropped from the suit, SMOC announced its excitement about the move by Framingham officials, through mediator Charles Swartwood, to restart settlement talks in the case, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston.

"(SMOC) continues to believe that the pursuit of a constructive resolution is in the Town of Framingham's best interest," according to SMOC's statement. "SMOC is very pleased that the town has made this overture.

"Absent a resolution, SMOC will continue to pursue this case vigorously against the town of Framingham and the remaining defendants," the statement said.

Lane and SMOC lawyer Howard Cooper declined further comment.

SMOC's press release came several hours after it filed a motion to dismiss its claims against Delmar Avenue resident Harold Wolfe in the discrimination case without prejudice.

"Why I was ever involved in the lawsuit is beyond my imagination," said Wolfe, who is represented by Boston lawyers Patrick Bannon and Greg Cote and Center for Individual Rights attorney Michael Rosman.

Bannon said SMOC's decision came "completely out of the blue," adding he had only met with its lawyers once and never asked for the case against Wolfe to be dismissed.

"I'm pleasantly surprised," he said, adding he wonders if Rosman's hiring played a role. "I think it was a mistake all along for them to go after the ordinary Joes."

In its statement, SMOC said it reached a mutual agreement to dismiss the lawsuit against Patricia Road resident Anthony Siciliano with prejudice, a week after his lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the matter. That means the case against Siciliano cannot be re-filed.

Efforts to reach Siciliano late yesterday were not successful.

Robbins called SMOC's press release "very peculiar," saying, "It seems to be a classic attempt to save face."

"SMOC is starting to drop claims without anyone paying them a cent or backing off from what they had said about SMOC," said Robbins.

In various postings over the years on the e-mail discussion group Framingham Neighbors (, Siciliano called SMOC's clients "criminals," "dregs of society," and "as useless to society as a dead dog."

Wolfe operates the Web site, which includes a banner "Stop SMOC" on its home page.

Other defendants still named in the case include Town Manager Julian Suso, Human Services Coordinator Alexis Silver, three selectmen, four Planning Board members and four Town Meeting members.

Town Meeting members Cynthia Laurora, Laurie Lee and Steven Orr last month filed motions to dismiss the claims against them. SMOC has not responded to those motions.

Other defendants are expected to file motions to dismiss Feb. 1, said Robbins.

Lawyers for both sides will meet Tuesday with Judge Douglas Woodlock in U.S. District Court in Boston to discuss a schedule for the case going forward. A trial is not likely to start before 2010, according to the proposals filed by the lawyers this week.

The two sides held two mediation sessions earlier this month and canceled a third.

(Craig MacCormack can be reached at 508-626-4429 or

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