Minister suing SMOC over fundraiser

Minister suing SMOC over fundraiser Wednesday, February 27, 2008
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News

FRAMINGHAM - A local minister says he plans to file a federal lawsuit asking for almost $300,000 in damages from several domestic violence prevention groups he said sabotaged a fundraiser he hosted last fall.

The Rev. Paul Papas, director of Narrow Path Ministries, an independent non-denominational church, plans to sue Voices Against Violence, REACH and Domestic Violence Victims Advocacy Program along with officials from each group, saying they "carried out a scheme devised to defraud, discourage, interfere with, intimidate and prevent people and organizations from participating in fund raising events."

Papas provided the Daily News with a copy of the lawsuit, which he said he plans to file today in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Mary Gianakis, director of Voices Against Violence, said yesterday she had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment. Efforts to reach other defendants were not successful.

Papas' suit accuses the defendants - using e-mails and public statements - of being responsible for several participants, including proposed keynote speaker state Rep. Pam Richardson, D-Framingham, pulling out of the Sept. 8 5K walk and run.

Gianakis, said Papas, called and e-mailed several potential participants in the effort to tell them it was not sanctioned by Voices Against Violence, a program operated by South Middlesex Opportunity Council.

The money raised through the fundraiser, which also included a dinner, was set to be used for domestic violence prevention programs in Massachusetts and Arizona, where Narrow Path Ministries is headquartered.

Papas said the event lost $70,000. He is asking for that money to be recovered through the lawsuit, plus another $210,000 in punitive damages. The amount raised "was barely enough to pay the bills," said Papas.

Papas also is expected to ask that the organizations be dissolved or reorganized in a way that prevents them from interfering in future events hosted by Narrow Path.

"There's no requirement that when we hold an event that it has to be sanctioned by these people," said Papas. Gianakis, Reilly Brown, Van Zant and Apsler were invited to planning meetings for the fundraiser, he said.

Richardson said recently she felt increasingly uncomfortable as she learned more about Papas' plans. She would not offer specifics about her reasons for ending her participation.

"I questioned whether some of the information about the event was true, and I couldn't confirm it was true," said Richardson, whose name is not mentioned in the 10-page filing.

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