It seems that the production of irrefutable proof on Wednesday that the land behind Center Fire Station is supposed to be a public park, dubbed “Center Park,” has proved too much for certain special interests. On Thursday Phil Eliopoulos lashed out on Roy Earley’s “ITR” Facebook page which has become an assembly area for a handful of particularly hateful and vitriolic public officials who don’t brook criticism of the oligarchy. His fanciful post would be amusing if it didn’t reflect a version of events that has been used to create enough confusion to flout the law and subvert our community interest in Center Park. Here it is (with corrections noted in blue):
Philip Eliopoulos Just to clarify a few of the many pieces of misinformation and lies that continue to be spread by RVL. He continues to say that Eastern Bank wanted to sell a strip of land behind the fire station to the Town and Paul Cohen didn’t act on it.
In fact I have never, ever said such a thing.
The historical fact is that Eastern Bank wanted to sell all the land behind Center Fire Station, comprising Center Park, to the town. The bank had entered into an agreement to sell the Emerson house and the 43,000 sq/ft surrounding it to Epsilon for $430,000. There remained another 1.2 acres behind the fire station which were not yet part of the deal. Bank executive Tom Dunn has stated under oath that he wanted to obtain $500,000 for everything. So the price would have been between $50,000 (the amount eventually paid by the Eliopouloses) and $100,000 (the amount the bank estimated it could potentially be worth in terms of tax writeoffs or a cash purchase price).
However Tom Dunn’s (Eastern Bank VP) deposition dispels this lie. Mr. Dunn is quite clear that Paul inquired about the land behind the fire station and that Eastern would not sell it piece meal.
It is clear from the written record and sworn testimony that the above statement by Phil Eliopoulos is the opposite of reality. Here are minutes from the Permanent Buildings Committee from February 17, 2009: “It has recently been brought to the attention of the Town that Eastern Bank is interested in selling property adjacent to the existing center fire station... The bank has indicated that subdividing the adjacent property is a possibility. The area of property that the town may be interested in purchasing and a price to purchase has not been discussed with the bank at this point.”
The committee passed a motion to task Town Manager Paul Cohen to “look into the feasibility” of purchasing the land adjacent to the fire station. But Paul Cohen made sure it wasn’t discussed until two months later, AFTER the Eliopouloses had had time to finalize their own deal with the bank. This is all documented in the sworn testimony of Eastern Bank official Thomas Dunn – the only sworn testimony available because immediately after that deposition the Board of Selectmen ordered Town Counsel to block all further testimony!
Actually, Dunn testified that HE had to call COHEN multiple times in February and March in order to try and start discussions. When Cohen did finally get back to him a couple of months later in April, Cohen only inquired about the ability to purchase a small area directly behind the station (an area of approx. 5 parking spaces where the firemen had been parking their private vehicles). The bank was not interested in subdividing the entire lot further for such a small sale.
They would only sell to one buyer for the whole piece which would have also included the Emerson House. He actually says it multiple times in his deposition and Richard McClure knows this.
Absolutely not true, and refuted immediately by both Dick McClure personally and the deposition text itself, which McClure posted as correction. Again, any combined price (if the lot were further divided) which exceeded the bank’s “goal price” of $500,000 would have been given serious consideration according to Mr. Dunn. In fact, Mr. Dunn asserts that he had a fiduciary duty to the bank to obtain the top price for the property. However, Cohen never made any serious or timely offer to purchase the remaining parcel.
Also, as an aside, the land behind the station was the legally necessary parking spaces for the Emerson House. So I don’t think it could have been subdivided to two owners as that would have made the Emerson House non-conforming. Also, RVL says the land behind the fire station should have been used to expand the station in its current location or for expanded parking. He also says that it is a park and should not be built on. Which is it?
What I have said is that the station could be extended, say, 8 feet or so to make the bays long enough to store longer engines and also ancillary equipment like the department’s small rescue boat. This would not impact Center Park.
He lies again when he says that the State Ethics Commission, which cleared myself (twice) and the Town Manager, never performed an investigation. Again not true.
This wishful thinking is repeated over and over in the public discourse not only by Phil Eliopoulos, but by selectmen and the Town Manager along with a host of proxies on blog sites run by Krista Perry and Roy Earley. The Ethics Commission has not cleared anyone of anything. Quite simply, they decided not to decide. Furthermore, they explicitly stated in their letter to Spencer Kimball in July 2011 that they do not have jurisdiction to investigate Paul Cohen and therefore refused to investigate him. See below regarding Mr. Eliopoulos.
The State Ethics Commission actually assigned a special investigator, Katelyn Farago and she did her investigation and found that there was no wrongdoing.
There is no indication that a thorough investigation was performed. Nevertheless, there is a crystal clear indication in their closing letter that evidence of actionable wrongdoing was strong enough that the case was presented to the executive committee. When there is “no wrongdoing” the investigators do not escalate their findings to the executive committee and waste the time of the executive committee! Here is what the letter says that Phil Eliopoulos says “clears” him and Paul Cohen:
We are not allowed to find out why the executive committee decided not to continue with a more thorough investigation and rectification. It could very well be that, since the Town Manager waited two years to report the ethics violations, the fact that the Eliopoulos Edifice has already been constructed creates a certain reluctance to act. But any rationale has to be conjecture, because the Ethics Commission is never going to tell us.
However, the Ethics Commission is not the only avenue to investigation and rectification. No one has been “cleared” of anything. The case on the “9 North Road” scandal is far from closed, wishful thinking of the Eliopoulos clan notwithstanding.
We know that the Land Court ruled twice that the project adhered to the Preservation Restriction.
Wow. It is amazing to me that Land Court Judge Piper allows Mr. Eliopoulos to run around putting these sorts of words in his mouth. There has been no such ruling. I have read the rulings and I have seen that Judge Piper has written that he feels he cannot and will not rule on the preservation restrictions unless and until the Board of Selectmen weigh in with a request to do so.
Mr. Eliopoulos has never produced any evidence that any judge has ruled that the preservation restriction is not being violated. Here is what Judge Piper actually wrote when he denied an injunction because of lack of standing of an abutter who had brought suit:
The Court has never “heard the case on the merits” and rendered a decision because the Board of Selectmen refuses to request that the Court do so. This was the primary reason for the recall effort, along with the blocking of further depositions after Tom Dunn's in Dick McClure’s lawsuit regarding process violations.
Even RVL's former attorneys issued a legal opinion that the project conformed to the Preservation Restriction but that doesn't stop him from continuing to say otherwise.
This is some cute wording that Phil Eliopoulos has used several times to imply that the law firm which he used to evaluate the capability to build on the lot prior to his family’s purchase (and while he was still a sitting selectman) somehow worked on the same issue for me. Of course they did not. That firm was and remains the primary counsel for the corporation of which I am the chief executive. So I don’t know why he calls them my “former attorneys” or why they are in any way relevant to any legal opinions I have received from other attorneys regarding 9 North Road. It would be a conflict of interest for them to issue me such an opinion, since they worked with Phil Eliopoulos on the matter previously. Phil is grasping at straws with this assertion.
The list could go on and on... I guess if the facts don't support his propaganda, he just makes up ones that do. So I find the title of RVL's latest e-mail quite ironic as the only one with revisionist history is him.
There’s a group of town officials who gaggle together on Roy Earley’s site for daily doses of starter material like the above, and the discourse devolves to the point that all vestiges of logic, decorum, or accuracy fly out the window. Here’s an example response from Glenn Thoren, a Town Meeting rep who has been a vigorous critic of factually accurate discourse. Note the almost panic-stricken tone:
With town officials like this, we do indeed have a lot of work to do to “save our town.”
Roland Van Liew