Framingham finance officials want to keep SMOC lawsuit costs in check Sunday, May 3, 2009
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Although Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved a $350,000 transfer to defend the town against a SMOC lawsuit, the Finance Committee wants a seat at the table when litigation strategy is broached.

The South Middlesex Opportunity Council's complaint names elected town officials including selectmen, Planning Board members, and Town Meeting members.

SMOC, which owns 88 properties in town, according to the Assessors Office, alleges a network of officials tried to stall expansion of its social services.

All told, Town Meeting has approved $750,000 in appropriations since the suit was filed in October 2007.

Now, the Finance Committee has formally asked to be kept abreast of developments in the case.

Selectmen oversee litigation matters for the town.

But Finance Committee Chairwoman Elizabeth Funk told Town Meeting last week her board wants at least one representative to be included in all selectmen meetings and decision-making relative to strategy in the case.

The Finance Committee also wants a weekly update on the use of funds associated with the case.

Federal Judge Douglas Woodlock has scheduled a hearing on the town's motion for a summary judgment, which could prevent the case from going to trial, for July 29.

Funk, on behalf of her board, suggested a plan for cost efficiency be developed for immediate implementation after summary judgment.

In addition, the committee wants a "clearly delineated cost analysis of each option available to the town from this moment forward become a matter of executive record of the town and held in confidence where appropriate under open meeting laws."

Some town residents, former Selectman John Kahn among them, have suggested the selectmen were seeking the $350,000 in part to pay for legal expenses already incurred.

Now the Finance Committee wants to be notified immediately when "cost overruns are projected." It also suggested the town work with the state to "address the need for greater local control over some social services."

Another provision calls for the town to work with SMOC to place a town appointee on the agency's board of directors.

If those talks are fruitless, the Finance Committee wants selectmen to seek legislative support for requiring a town appointee on the SMOC board.

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