Lowell Sun reporter Rita has been a notable “Friend of Eliopoulos” for years, appearing with Phil on talk shows, blasting his opponents in print, and downplaying or refusing entirely to report his multiple ethics violations. To this point, for instance, we can’t find any reference in any of her articles to the actual documented ethics violations of Eliopoulos. Nor will she print the agenda of the Better Not Bigger project, even though she has asked me several times and I have provided the same. Instead, she lets government officials who have never even spoken with us define the agenda as being whatever they feel like saying on that particular day.
The agenda is good and honest government, and an enhanced quality of life for all residents. This is not acceptable to certain officials, because it means accountability for malfeasance and a commitment to tell the truth, neither of which our top officials will support. Not a single selectman has articulated any support of accountability for malfeasance, and not a single selectman will testify under oath that they have been telling the truth about the “9 North Road” scandal and other acts of malfeasance.
On Wednesday, Ms. Savard penned yet another article devoid of fact checking and full of false statements from town officials. Ms. Savard makes no effort to check the facts and educate readers on the falsities being presented as quotes from officials and FOEs (Friends of Eliopoulos) opposed to good and honest government for our community.
The article contains much misinformation and disinformation from the usual suspects including Paul Cohen and some new ones including Pat Maloney, Cohen’s new excuse for not briefing his bosses about the Eliopoulos land deal for “9 North Road” until it was too late to effectively act to obtain the land for the town. Below are corrections, colored yellow.
The editors at the Lowell Sun have been presented numerous times with complaints about Ms. Savard’s refusal to print hard facts central to the 9 North Road scandal, accompanied by her willingness to print false statements from town officials without rebuttal or even later correction. Ms. Savard has printed such false statements without rebuttal even when told beforehand that they are false. The editors have not responded, but Ms. Savard has clearly been given the green light to continue biasing her coverage toward the fabric of fanciful stories by Phil Eliopoulos, Paul Cohen, and Jon Kurland. Her article Wednesday in the Lowell Sun, titled “No Backroom Deals” lacks any sort of fact checking and is so chock full of errors that we could spend much more time correcting them but we have stuck with the glaring ones. Below are some of the more egregious examples.
'No backroom deals' on Chelmsford fire-station site, ex-committee chairman says
By Rita Savard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: 06/22/2011 03:04:23 PM EDT
CHELMSFORD – A former committee chairman charged with finding the best location for a new center fire station now says North Road was "never off the table."
After an independent study group recommended the corner of Wilson and Chelmsford streets for a new fire station in August 2007, the town Fire Station/DPW Committee chaired by Pat Maloney threw its support behind it.
But with an Aug. 2 election to recall four selectmen fast approaching, Maloney said voters need to know what was really happening behind closed doors.
"There were no backroom deals," he said. "Roland Van Liew keeps trying to say deals were being made to benefit the Eliopouloses. But (Town Manager) Paul Cohen and I were pursuing a part of that property for a plan B for a fire station or for future use."
After pouring $90,000 into an effort that included hiring signature gatherers, Van Liew, a Chelmsford businessman, was able to push the first recall election in Chelmsford's history. The election seeks to remove Selectmen George Dixon, Matt Hanson, Jon Kurland and Pat Wojtas from office.
Van Liew, who could not be reached for comment for this story, alleges the selectmen failed to uphold the law when dealing with a 9 North Road building project owned by a former selectman's father.
In a previous meeting with Sun editors, Van Liew said the recall isn't about 9 North Road.
"It's about good government," Van Liew said. "I want them to uphold the law."
Opponents of the recall say Van Liew is a man with an agenda – to get rid of the town manager.
The North Road controversy "just gave Van Liew the latest fodder to fuel his agenda," said Stephanie Bush, co-chair of Choose Chelmsford, an anti-recall group.
By creating a timeline dating back to Cohen and Van Liew's first disagreement in 2007, Choose Chelmsford said it's trying to present facts and show Van Liew was looking for a way to oust Cohen years ago.
Van Liew, who funded the former Chelmsford Slow Growth Initiative, began mass mailings in 2008 and 2009, blasting town officials and Cohen of bringing mass 40B affordable-housing projects into Chelmsford.
Van Liew has told The Sun his involvement sparked interest in the 2009 election, resulting in a six-man race for two open seats.
"That's a good thing," Van Liew said.
Cohen has said the only 40B approved in his 4 1/2 years as manager was a 48-unit affordable-housing project on Riverneck Road, which was tied up in court for six years before a judge finally approved it.
Bush said throughout the years, Van Liew has taken bits and pieces of information and twisted them to fit his goal to get rid of Cohen and other officials who disagree with him. Her anti-recall efforts seeks to prove that.
The timeline, she says, highlights Maloney and Cohen's attempt to purchase the land behind the North Road fire station.
In February 2009, the Fire Station/DPW Committee recommended a new fire-station headquarters for the corner of Chelmsford and Wilson streets. Chairman Maloney remained in favor of renovating and expanding the existing facility.
"I thought Chelmsford and Wilson Street was too big," Maloney said.
During the same month, Cohen heard from Fire Capt. Frank Houle that Michael Eliopoulos, father of then Selectman Philip Eliopoulos, was trying to purchase a two-acre parcel behind the fire station along with the historic Emerson House, owned by Eastern Bank.
Cohen called Eastern Bank Vice President Tom Dunn to see if he was interested in selling a piece of the parcel to the town.
Dunn said he'd get back to him.
Maloney said they weren't interested in purchasing the Emerson House. The town already had three historic buildings – the Dutton House and two old town halls – that it was trying to figure out what to do with.
"All we wanted was the land behind the fire station," Maloney said. "We had a very small window of time to work with and we didn't want to make a big deal publicizing it until we were sure it could happen. We were trying to work with the bank to buy a piece of the land that Michael Eliopoulos wanted. Of course we didn't want him (Michael Eliopoulos) to know right away."
According to the timeline, Maloney informed the Permanent Building Committee that there was a possibility of acquiring land behind Center Station.
In late February 2009, Cohen informed Maloney that the bank's appraisal of the land was $430,000, and an offer was on the table from Michael Eliopoulos for $480,000
Maloney and Cohen both felt is was still possible to purchase a piece of the land. Cohen received approval from the Board of Selectmen during a work session to explore the issue further.
The meeting minutes of March 16, 2009, do not reflect any such conversation. Cohen said that's because the meeting occurred before the state's Open Meeting Law became more stringent.
"It wasn't abnormal to bring up items that weren't on the agenda," Cohen said. "It was a quick discussion, for the purpose of getting the board's approval to look deeper into it."
According to the minutes, Philip Eliopoulos left the meeting early. Cohen said he was not there during talks about the land.
"We chased it until the end," Maloney said of 9 North Road.
But ultimately, Eastern Bank did not want to break it up.
The Eliopouloses finalized a purchase-and-sale agreement in April. Maloney met with the Eliopoulos family after to see if they could purchase a strip of land behind the fire station.
After reviewing the site plan for an office building the family wanted to build, Maloney learned it would not be possible.
When asked why town officials didn't make a point to highlight their efforts before now, Cohen said, "it was private land and it was up to the owners, Eastern Bank, to sell it to whomever they wanted."
"In the end, they made a deal with Michael Eliopoulos," he said. "There was nothing we could do about that."
Choose Chelmsford will hold a public forum at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Chelmsford Radisson to discuss the recall and answer voters' questions.
Via email, Van Liew declined an invitation to serve on the panel, calling it a group strategy to attack him personally when Choose Chelmsford said no one else could serve on the panel on Van Liew's behalf.
Bush said the intention wasn't to attack or even debate Van Liew.
"He initiated the recall," she said. "It's his effort and we thought voters should be able to direct any questions they have for him, directly to him."
Yours with best wishes and hope for the future of our town,
Roland Van Liew