Ex-Redevelopment Board member sues town

Juliana Rice, town counsel
Chris Loreti, former Redevelopment Board member

A former member of the Redevelopment Board member has sued the town in Middlesex County Superior Court, claiming that his state and federal constitutional rights have been violated when was not reappointed.

Christopher Loreti, who clashed with Town Counsel Juliana Rice over a zoning issue in the fall of 2010, lost his seat the board in 2011 after Rice learned his term was three years, not five. Clarification about Loreti's term came after Rice inquired with the state.

May 1, 2011: Loreti asked questions; now he's off Redevelopment Board

A copy of the lawsuit was requested from attorneys for the town and Loreti, but neither side could provide one. Each said not all named in the lawsuit had yet received notice about it.

The suit came to light in a Feb. 21 email from Joan Roman, town public-information officer, copied to Selectmen Clarissa Rowe, with the subject line "Selectmen Statement Regarding Suit Against Town." It said:

"The Board of Selectmen has been informed that a lawsuit has been filed by Christopher Loreti, a former member of the Arlington Redevelopment Board, who apparently was disappointed when he was not renamed as the State’s designee to the Arlington Redevelopment Board upon expiration of his term.

"Mr. Loreti has filed suit against the Town in the Middlesex County Superior Court, claiming that his state and federal constitutional rights have been violated as a result of this failure to be reappointed by State officials.

"Board Chair Clarissa Rowe said, 'While the town regards this claim as baseless and will vigorously defend it, the legal costs to the town associated with the defense of this lawsuit are certainly unfortunate, especially given the recent efforts and sacrifices of the taxpayers and town employees to conserve funds during this economic downturn.' "

Attorneys on both sides respond

Asked to comment, Loreti forwarded a request to his attorney, Elizabeth M. Clague of Brockton. She provided a statement Feb. 22:

"Mr Loreti was subjected to a torrent of misconduct by the defendants in retaliation for doing his job on behalf of the taxpayers in Arlington. That has been well documented by local media, and the timing of the attacks upon him make obvious their retaliatory nature.

"The abuses of power by government actors and the unlawful attacks upon him designed to intimidate him and shut down his reasonable inquiries have been stark indeed--they have used extreme backdoor machinations to deprive him of a position to which he was elected by his colleagues in violation of his rights and in retaliation for his public statements and they have made viciously derogatory statements with reckless disregard for the truth in order to humiliate and impugn the good reputation of this public servant.

"The defendants have also illegally deprived him of information he has requested and to which the law entitles him, erecting barriers at every step in the public records disclosure process.

"The defendants have waged a campaign of personal destruction that has included unlawful misconduct and he brought suit in part because of the harm he suffered and in part because if these defendants can so abuse their power in attacks upon Mr. Loreti they can do it to any taxpayer in the Town of Arlington."

Rice was asked to comment on the statement as well as whether she intended to defend the town in the lawsuit. She did not respond, but Ed Marlenga, the town attorney who usually handles labor matters, did Feb. 22:

"In response to whether Town Counsel will be defending the case brought by Mr. Loreti: Where the Town Counsel is a named defendant, this case must be handled by outside legal counsel.

"In response to whether or not the Town would like to respond to Mr. Loreti’s attorney’s statement: The Town’s Legal Department does not argue or defend litigated cases in the press or comment upon extrajudicial statements by counsel."

Some background

A series of events, documented by YourArlington last May, led Loreti to ask selectmen for an investigation involving town counsel. To date, there has been no response to the request. Instead, Loreti's Redevelopment Board term was considered to have ended, and a new member, Christine Scypinski, took her seat on the board last April 25.

The differences between Loreti and Rice appeared to continue last spring. Loreti, a Precinct 7 Town Meeting member, was the proponent for an article seeking a bylaw to limit the fee charged for requests under the state public-records law.

Loreti made a public-record request related to a 39 Dudley St. zoning issue in the fall of 2010, but the town estimated the bill to comply would be from $1,000 to $1,500. That led Loreti to appeal the town’s response to the Supervisor of Records in the Secretary of State’s office and then to submit the article.

Last October, Loreti formally asked the state attorney general's office to investigate his complaint alleging the town manager and selectmen violated the Open Meeting Law the preceding July after the board voted to favor a developer for Symmes, an action based in part on a memo the manager prepared for the board. That request is pending.

This story was first published Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012.

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