Motions made to dismiss

Motions made to dismiss Saturday, February 2, 2008
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Lawyers for nearly all of the defendants in a federal discrimination lawsuit filed motions this week to dismiss the charges brought against them by a local social services agency in October.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Jason Smith filed his motion Thursday, followed by a flurry of filings yesterday, including requests by Town Manager Julian Suso, 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 Cynthia Laurora and Laurie Lee.

Yesterday was the deadline for most defendants to respond to the charges, brought by South Middlesex Opportunity Council in U.S. District Court in Boston against the town itself and more than a dozen town officials.

Last week, Judge Douglas Woodlock gave Town Meeting member Peter Adams until Feb. 15 to respond to the charges against him.

Two weeks ago, SMOC dismissed all charges against Patricia Road resident Anthony Siciliano and Delmar Avenue resident Harold Wolfe. The charges against Siciliano were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be refiled.

The lawsuit charges the defendants with engaging in "a coordinated effort" to rid the town of its disabled population by limiting SMOC's options on new programs. It asks for all permits tied to two projects and increased oversight of local boards.

The matter is unlikely to go to trial before 2010. Finance Committee Chairwoman Katie Murphy has estimated it could cost millions to defend the matter if it is not settled before it goes to trial.

Laurora, Lee and Town Meeting member Steven Orr filed motions to dismiss the case in December, saying the case be considered a "strategic lawsuit against public participation" - or SLAPP suit - which is filed to intimidate opponents and hit them with a heavy legal bill.

SMOC attorney Howard Cooper has said the case cannot be considered as such an effort because it was filed in federal court. SMOC spokeswoman Jane Lane declined to comment on the motions to dismiss the case.

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