SMOC wants more depositions, asks for delay

SMOC wants more depositions, asks for delay Saturday, December 13, 2008
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- The South Middlesex Opportunity Council has asked a federal judge to allow its attorneys to take more depositions in its lawsuit against the town.

SMOC has also requested a 90-day extension of the discovery deadline.

In October 2007, the social services agency sued the town and numerous town officials in federal court, alleging the town broke federal housing laws by blocking expansion of its programs.

Yesterday, SMOC filed a motion asking to conduct 10 additional depositions to the 10 already allowed by court rule.

SMOC also asked to extend the fact discovery deadline from Jan. 15 to April 15.

SMOC wants to depose Selectmen Dennis Giombetti and Jason Smith, former Planning Board Chairwoman Ann Welles, current Planning Board Chairwoman Carol Spack and fellow board member Andrea Carr-Evans, Police Chief Steven Carl, Town Manager Julian Suso, former Building Commissioner Joseph Mikelian, PILOT Committee minority member Dawn Harkness and Framingham Detective Larry Hendry, who is a member of the Stop Tax Exempt Private Property Sprawl organization.

Jeff Robbins, attorney for the town, thought the developed boded well for the defendants.

"It would not be a wild exaggeration to say that ... SMOC's ship appears to be sinking,'' said Robbins.

Alluding to Judge Dennis Woodlock's September decision to toss out several conspiracy and civil rights counts from the case and dismiss the charges against Suso outright, Robbins continued, "Anytime you have someone who brings a lawsuit then has more than half of it thrown out of court then has to have the number of depositions doubled so that they can come up with evidence to support the complaint ... I think people can draw the appropriate inference.''

However several federal violations are still in play - a fact that did not escape SMOC spokeswoman Jane Lane.

"Despite Mr. Robbins' statements to the contrary, the core of SMOC's case as it pertains to the federal Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act as well as all of the defamatory claims will continue to go forward,'' she said yesterday.

She continued, ``This is standard procedure in major litigation. The additional time is necessary to obtain all the information that SMOC needs and those reasons are clearly'' outlined in the request for extension.

Lane also pointed to an affidavit of Mieklian, which supports the notion that town officials overstepped its bounds in trying to hinder SMOC expansion, as evidence "SMOC's case remains extremely viable despite Mr. Robbins' erroneous claims to the contrary.''

Of Robbins, Lane said, "It appears that the town would do well to find itself an attorney who is more interested in resolving this case than in making inflammatory and grossly inaccurate statements on its behalf.''

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