More cash needed for SMOC legal battle Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Town Meeting will wrestle with the financial consequences of the SMOC lawsuit tonight.

One warrant article for special Town Meeting, scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. in Nevins Hall, requests money to supplement the legal budget for the case. The suit was filed last October.

In its court claims, the South Middlesex Opportunity Council says town officials conspired to block and stall expansion of its social services.

In doing so, the town violated federal housing law and discriminated against people with disabilities, according to the lawsuit.

With Town Meeting members to consider more funding for that legal battle, one rather important wrinkle had yet to be ironed out as of 4 p.m. yesterday: the exact figure of the funding request.

That number may emerge from a joint executive session of the article's sponsor, the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee, before the meeting begins.

Since those two boards had yet to meet and discuss the matter, selectmen Chairman Jason Smith declined to say how much money the board would request.

"I don't want to speak out of turn," said Smith, who is named in the suit.

Last fall, Town Meeting voted to appropriate $150,000 for the legal defense of the SMOC lawsuit.

Since that time at least two town residents have tried to learn how much of the $150,000 sum the town used.

The town has rejected the requests, citing attorney-client privilege.

Yesterday, Smith continued to toe that line, declining to divulge how much of the $150,000 remains for SMOC legal defense.

"I think it's safe to say we have not used it all," he said.

Town Meeting member Herb Chassan, who started a signature gathering campaign to urge SMOC and the town to seek mediation, had his own theory.

"They burned through $150,000 and now they're looking for more money," said Chassan. "So there we are."

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