Subpoena issued for SMOC-related correspondence Monday, June 23, 2008
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- The town, through a federal district court subpoena, has ordered SMOC supporter Dawn Harkness to hand over video and audio recordings, e-mails and other correspondence as part of an ongoing legal battle.

In its suit filed last fall, the South Middlesex Opportunity Council - a social service organization - asserted town officials made a concerted effort to block expansion of the agency's programs.

Specifically, an attempt to open Larry's Place, a veterans shelter, and plans to move Sage House, a residential drug treatment program, were delayed, according to court documents.

Now a subpoena issued in federal district court in Boston commands Harkness, a former SMOC shelter worker and a lawyer to produce several pieces of information related to the case.

Specifically requested in the subpoena are all audio and video recordings or transcripts relating to the town's PILOT Impact Comparative Study Committee, on which Harkness was a dissenting voice.

Town Meeting charged that committee with studying the impact of social services in town. Its final report was released in May 2006 and described a local increase in social service agencies, but Harkness supported a minority report that questioned the committee's conclusions.

The subpoena also calls for Harkness to offer any e-mails or other correspondence regarding the PILOT Committee, including communication between fellow supporters of the group's minority report.

The subpoena also requests Harkness produce any written communication between herself and SMOC officials, as well as SMOC legal counsel, relating to the organization's lawsuit with the town.

In addition, the subpoena seeks any documents in Harkness' possession that mention an October 2005 visit by Town Meeting member Steven Orr to a 105 Irving St. SMOC-operated "wet shelter."

Orr is a defendant in the SMOC case.

Harkness had the PILOT Committee's meetings taped and aired on local cable. Last fall, she said in a post on the Framingham Neighbors e-mail group that she did not want to release them unless ordered to do so by a court.

The subpoena requests the information be presented to the law offices of Pierce, Davis and Perritano on July 8. That law firm represents multiple town officials in the suit, including selectmen Vice Chairwoman Ginger Esty, Selectman Dennis Giombetti and Town Manager Julian Suso.

Attempts to reach Harkness yesterday were unsuccessful.

In Town Meeting this past May, Harkness rose to speak on a warrant article that asked how much money the town had spent in the suit.

At the time, responding to Town Meeting member Robert Snider's remark that she was "so well-identified with SMOC," Harkness said she had no conflict of interest in the matter.

The PILOT Committee's final report indicated social service organizations multiplied from 14 to 40 between 1996 and 2006.

The number of sites under social service management increased 600 percent during that 10-year period, the report said.

However, critics of the report say those statistics may have been twisted, resulting in inaccurate conclusions about social service sector. Harkness was one of four members who did not vote for that final report.

The minority report states, "When statistical data that proved a direct connection between social services and impact to Framingham was not available, the majority of the committee felt it wise to include data that may lead one to a certain conclusion that is not statistically proven."

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