Second vote on new Chelmsford fire station defeated


A local resident casts her vote. SUN/David H. Brow image.

As written today by Rita Savard of the Lowell Sun:

CHELMSFORD — In the town’s only contested race, voters said a controversial building project led the charge for a shake-up on the Planning Board.

Attorney Richard McClure, who is suing the town over an alleged preservation restriction violation at 9 North Road, topped the three-way race for two open seats, pushing out Chairwoman Ann McGuigan.

McClure earned 2,392 votes, followed by Michael Raisbeck with 2,180 votes. McGuigan trailed with 1,883 votes.

“I believe the election results were clearly a referendum on the 9 North Road project, given the ouster of the chair of the Planning Board,” McClure said in an email last night. “I am very thankful for the voters and I hope to do my best in representing their interests.”

The results took some by surprise last night, including members of the Planning Board, who have been sued by McClure.

“I will still go about doing the business of Chelmsford as always,” board member George Zaharoolis said. “The Planning Board has a responsibility to uphold the bylaws. That’s what I’ll continue to do, and I hope the new members do the same.”

The 9 North Road parcel, next to the Center Fire Station, ignited the feuds that led to several ongoing legal battles.

Michael Eliopoulos, father of former longtime Selectman Philip Eliopoulos, purchased the privately owned land from Eastern Bank for $400,000 in 2009. McClure has sued the town over an alleged violation of a 1978 preservation restriction, which he said was created to retain the two-acre parcel as open space.

McClure also alleges that the land sold for such a low price because it has always been marked as “unbuildable.”

Former Selectmen John Carson, Paul Hart and Joe Shanahan, who helped author the preservation restriction more than 30 years ago, spoke before town officials last year to confirm the intent of the bylaw was to keep the land as open space.

But other town officials argue that the bylaw was not written specifically to prevent building on the parcel. An attempt to halt construction last year was rejected by a state Land Court judge.

Accusations that the land was acquired through backroom deals have spurred several lawsuits. McClure is also the attorney representing Chelmsford businessman Roland Van Liew in his suits against various town officials.

McGuigan was unable to be reached for comment.

Raisbeck, who was a Planning Board alternate, said he might have done well with voters because he positioned himself “somewhat in between the other two.”

“I was a fan of Ann’s,” he said. “I don’t really know Dick McClure that well, but I’m looking forward to getting to know him and having a productive term on the board.”

The amount of blank ballots for the race, 2,726, topped all candidates’ votes.

Looking at the results last night, Town Meeting representative Brian Latina said it is clear that “this election was about 9 North Road.”

“People were sending a message,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Read more: http://www.lowellsun.com/rss/ci_17782655?source=rss#ixzz1Il9eggfP

Financial Entitlement in the US


Robert Lenzner, Forbes —

Don’t blame David Sokol’s  craving to make a fortune  and become a philanthropist on Warren Buffett’s understandable confidence  that  his leading heir-apparent would do nothing to embarass him and Berkshire Hathaway.

It was  David Sokol’s personal responsibility to tell Buffett on January 25th latest  that he  owned 96,000 shares of Lubrizol worth $10 million that, excuse me , he had  purchased  the first week of January, 2011, ahem, just 18 days before the Jan. 25th  decision to go ahead and  negotiate for Lubrizol.

Then, Buffett would have realized he had to reveal this stock activity in the merger materials, which was going to be an embarassment– even if he had ordered  Sokol to sell the shares before ANY negotiations.

This  is not an issue of corporate governance, that mushy concept that obfuscates what you should be born with– an ingrained sense of what is right and what is wrong.  Unfortunately, our celebrity culture has placed a priority on public excess, the insatiable need to be richer than the next guy,  keep up with the private equity billionaires, the hip-hop entrepreneurs with diamonds in their ear lobes, the Donald Trumps of the world.

Read today about the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac execs who were paid multiple  millions personally and presided over public  losses of billions. It’s  time to pull “The Rich And The Super Rich, A Study of  Money & Power And Who Really Owns America” out of the bookcase and  remind  myself of  the prevailing culture.

The Oscar-winning  documentary “Inside Job,” is deep-down a narrative of the insidious culture of financial entitlement, an invisible virus  at work  in the culture.  Cut the school budget, layoff policemen, cannibalize  training programs for the unemployed, don’t make GE pay any taxes etc. is  the dark side of the  culture of  financial entitlement.

Here  are some of the many examples of the virus at work in our recent history. The leading investment banker who  is also chairman of the investment bank’s regulator who buys shares of the investment bank at a  depressed price during the financial crisis  with full insight as to public  policy support for the  institution, and never has his wrist slapped.  Supported by his former  partner, who once held a high cabinet post, who assured me there  w as nothing wrong in taking advantage of inside knowledge to make an extra buck or two.

The  leading executive of a  public-private housing finance institution who brags to me that she got out just in time without being stained by the  crisis, her extraordinary small fortune  intact.

The phenomenon of a leading  bank, JP Morgan Chase allowing  $100 billion to be transferred back and forth between  the crook of the century, Bernie Madoff and another major client of the bank.  Or my alma mater, Goldman Sachs letting a  hedge fund  maven client pick out the lousy mortgages to go short  in a public offering.  Or Credit Suisse having to pay a fine of $535 million to  the government for violating the  sanctions against  doing business with knave nations  like Iran and the Sudan.

Just have a look at hedge fund biggie Raj Rajaratnam, blithley protesting  his innocence  of criminality  in the  biggest inside information trial ever, despite 19 guilty pleas  by others caught in his dishonest web.  Absurd.

The disappearing American middle class


BREAKING NEWS — “Too few American families are living in economically secure households, with most workers unable to stretch their incomes over basic expenses and savings,” said Joan Kuriansky, Wider Opportunities for Women’s Executive Director.  “The American Dream of working hard to support your family is being re-written by the growth of low-paying industries and rising expenses.”

According to the BEST report released by the Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) organization, “…jobs created in the coming years will not provide economic security wages to the majority of workers who do not have 4-year college degrees.  Fewer than 13% of jobs the US Department of Labor expects to be created by 2018 are likely to provide economic security to a single parent raising two or more children.  A small majority of new jobs are expected to pay economic security wages for single workers without children, and approximately 43% of the new jobs will pay economic security wages for two workers raising two young children.”

As Congress debates how to make ends meet, the following cuts are on the chopping block:

  • Cuts to virtually all funding for Department of Labor job training programs this year, from the Workforce Investment Act to on-the job training for older workers.
  • Cuts to the Community Services Block Grant, which provides access to employment, nutrition and other vital services that help low-income people find jobs and move into the middle class.
  • Cuts to Medicaid, which covers health care for low-income families across the generations and is the major source of funding for long-term care. If turned into a block grant, as has been suggested by some, such cuts could result in loss of health care jobs as well as services for patients of all ages.

At the same time, Brian Williams from NBC Nightly News stated that the pay raises of some top CEOs received last year were nearly identical to the pay raises they received BEFORE the recession.  Ouch.

Race for 1st Middlesex district turns bitter


With just 13 days left before the state’s primary, the candidates for the 1st Middlesex district state senate seat are lobbing bigger accusations against each other. On Monday, the Doherty campaign released a statement against Donoghue stating that she is a hypocrite when it comes to illegal immigration.

According to the flier, Donoghue willingly accepted a case against an individual, Lilliana Rivera, who was supposedly indicted for conspiracy to create and sell alien registration receipts and social security cards. The document goes on farther to state Donoghue was fundamental to Rivera receiving a substantially reduced sentence. The effect is that Donoghue is portrayed not only as soft on illegal immigration, but someone who misleads the public.

On its face, the Doherty campaign’s assertions are alarming to say the least. Factually, the campaign’s claims against Donoghue are half-truths.

The first claim: The flier seemed to indicate that Rivera was a key player in creating the forged alien registration receipts and social security cards.

One of the statements made was that Rivera was indicted for the federal charges of conspiracy to produce and sell false alien registration receipts and social security cards. To support this claim, the flier included a copy of a federal court’s filing for the case. The filing describes, in detail, the role of each person involved in the operation. It even lays out the offenses the individuals were charged with, of which Rivera was one out of two people indicted.

The document, which the Donoghue campaign says isn’t accurate, details the specific charges that Rivera faced. Though Rivera was found to be a part of the operation, she was found to play a minimal role. Namely, Rivera’s role was to transport the fake ids from the people who created them to the people who would buy them. In regards to specific offenses, she was charged with possession and transportation of falsified documents.

This information was verified by Conor Yunits, spokesman for the Donoghue campaign. According to Yunits, Rivera was forced to transport the ids because one of the people involved abused her. “Rivera got involved because one of the people who created the ids was her boyfriend. She was in an abusive relationship with him and he forced her to transport the ids. Rivera eventually sought a restraining order against her boyfriend.”

The second claim: that Donoghue willingly accepted the case when she could have refused.

Looking at the court document alone, it makes mention that the lead attorney was Donoghue and that she was retained. In legal speak, a retained lawyer is an attorney that been paid to take a case.

Yunits explained that wasn’t true. “Eileen speaks Spanish and was often assigned to cases to where one of the parties involved didn’t speak English. Rivera didn’t know a lot of English, so Eileen was appointed to the case. She only represented Rivera and not the individuals who actually forged the documents.”

What seems particularly odd is that the listed firm Donoghue was supposed to have been working for at the time, Gallagher & Cavanaugh, didn’t exist when the case was being processed.

The third claim: that Donoghue was responsible for Rivera’s reduced sentence.

The court document shows that Rivera was charged with possession and transportation, which are outlined in 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a) and 1028 (a) (2). In reading the text of 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a), a person who knowingly possesses false alien registration receipt cards or other documents can be fined, imprisoned or both.  According to the same section, a person can’t be imprisoned for more than 10 years for this violation if the offense wasn’t committed to facilitate international terrorism or drug trafficking. A person charged with transporting such documents can’t be imprisoned for more than 15 years, according to the terms of 18 U.S.C. 1028 (b).  It is also possible to be fined under this statute. Under both sections, no one can receive a higher sentence unless the offense was completed in order to commit international terrorism or drug trafficking.

The attached document included with the flier makes no mention of either terrorism or drug trafficking in list of charges against Rivera.

Notice that both of these sections of the United States Code establish maximum sentencing limits for these offenses. With that in mind, it’s possible that Rivera was given a lesser sentence because she wasn’t a major player. Or maybe her lesser sentence has something to do with the fact that the U.S. Attorney General, as evidenced by the included court document, dropped one of the charges against Rivera.

Why Rivera got a lesser sentence is murky at best given the court document is possibly inaccurate and nearly 20 years old at this point.

“This is another attempt by the Chris Doherty campaign to smear Eileen Donoghue’s name and reputation. Eileen worked hard to ensure 6th Amendment rights for everyone when she was an attorney,” remarked Yunits.

Local attorney files suit over 9 North Road construction


On Wednesday, Richard McClure took a stance against the Epsilon Group by finding new causes to go to court. McClure’s charges came two days after the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen (BoS) voted in favor of the project, claiming that the construction doesn’t violate a 1978 preservation restriction. The August 25th filing of the case was also the deadline to revoke the building permit for the construction.

This is the latest of line of a grand total of four suites against the Epsilon’s group project. At least one of the cases was willingly dropped by the plaintiffs. This was due to the fact the BoS refused to meet for a vote while there was a case pending in the courts. After the case was dropped, the BoS eventually scheduled a meeting—a mere 48 hours before the town’s deadline to repeal the Eliopoulos’s permit.

In the current case, McClure states that “…there were improper, invalid, and absent approvals by required boards and improper notice of public hearings by those boards.” The suite also calls the permits, “…’whimsical, capricious, arbitrary, unconstitutional and unlawful.’”

Chelmsford BoS cower under threat of lawsuit


On August 23rd, the Chelmsford Board of Selectman (BoS) held a town meeting to vote on the construction proposal for 9 North Road and whether it violated a preservation restriction. Though the selectmen seemed contemplative throughout the meeting, their composure appeared lost after the Epsilon’s lawyer forewarned of a lawsuit should the BoS repeal their permit.

What makes this project so controversial is due to a preservation restriction that was created in 1978. The Epsilon group, which represents the Eliopoulos family, claims that restriction doesn’t bar all construction. The group also claims that the intentions of the restriction and the 1978 BoS are not only immaterial, but inapplicable to the project. Specifically, the Epsilon group focuses its argument on Articles 2 and 6 of the restriction. These sections require that any construction be “barnlike” in appearance, that all construction not exceed 55% of the total land area, and that the owners have a limited right to develop the land, respectively.

Such bold statements were probably a smack in the face for former selectman, John W. Carson. Carson, who was on the BoS in 1978, adamantly spoke out against the project at the meeting. According to Carson, he and the other two surviving selectman that signed the restriction crafted the measure in order to preserve the open land as a public park. Carson’s argument relies on Articles 5, 7 and 8 of the restriction. The sections maintain that the land is to be maintained as a park, that all structures are to be small, and that all buildings must match the architecture of the Emerson barn.

The board’s 2 to 1 vote in favor of the project was met with resounding outrage from the dozens of citizens that attended the meeting. Though there was support for the construction, it seemed to have been overwhelmed by the public’s opposition.

Transparency concerns raised during first Doherty-Donoghue debate, part 2


Probably the most perplexing issue that was mentioned was transparency, which has come up repeatedly since the beginning of the race. This is one topic that isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

The disagreement started back in May when Donoghue challenged Doherty to post a list of donors on his website. Though it is hard to tell precisely when each candidate posted these lists, both campaigns seem to claiming that they posted their list first. In fact, today the Doherty campaign issued a press release applauding the Donoghue campaign for listing their donors online.

What could be of interest to the voters is not when the lists were posted, but from where the donations originated. Donoghue’s list, which can be linked to at the top of her home page, is nine pages long and appears to list over 350 donors. Of the listed donations, all which look to be individual contributions, a fair amount come from outside the district. The list that Doherty posted, which can be found on his contributions page, looks to contain over 300 individual donations. Like Donoghue, he too is receiving donations from outside the district.

In the end, this is going to be a race about nuances. Both candidates have similar stances on the issues, but their approach to the topics are somewhat different. If voters want a candidate to take a big leadership role, then the district could lead towards Donoghue. Or the district could lean more towards Doherty if voters want a highly collaborative candidate.