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

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.

Transparency concerns raised during first Doherty-Donoghue debate, part 1


Tuesday’s debate between Chris Doherty and Eileen Donoghue, both Democrats from Lowell, was surprisingly fair to both candidates. Radio station WCAP, or 980 AM, allowed both Doherty and Donoghue equal time to respond to the questions though both occasionally exceeded the allotted time. This was the first of several debates that has been scheduled before the primary.

On most of the issues, both candidates gave similar, if not identical, answers to the questions they were asked. On the issue of illegal immigration, both candidates went on the record as not supporting illegal immigration. Both stated that they would enforce current laws. In regards to the recent $35 million loan that went to Lawrence, both candidates expressed support as it included safeguards to ensure that the Commonwealth was paid back.

Both candidates spoke out against allowing cities and towns raising local taxes above Proposition 2 ½ allowances. This is an important issue in light of the state reducing local aid by 4%, which means that cities and towns will need to find creative ways to solve their budget problems.

However, Doherty and Donoghue did not completely see eye to eye on every issue.

When the candidates were asked whether or not they supported Patrick’s recent CORI reform bill, Doherty said he doesn’t support the legislation, while Donoghue’s answer wasn’t as straightforward. Donoghue seems to support some, but not all, of the provisions as she claimed her response wasn’t exactly a yes or no answer.

When asked about what they would do to stimulate the economy, Donoghue stressed the importance of helping to lower health care costs for small businesses and that state regulations are tough on small businesses. Doherty talked about promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, which comprise the STEM program.

To keep reading, click here.

First Doherty-Donoghue debate on 8/16


In the race for the 1st Middlesex district, Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) and Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) will face off in their first debate tonight.

The debate is scheduled to take place today in Lowell. It is to be aired on radio station 980 AM from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Be sure to tune in as it is bound to get very interesting very quickly.

Both candidates have slightly different stances on the issues, so tonight will be the first chance for voters to discover what makes each candidate unique. So far, both are courting small business owners in an effort to win their vote. To that end, Doherty would likely support measures that would allow small businesses to delay payment of their filing fees in order to help them get off the ground. Donoghue is slightly more focused on helping local businesses by working with small businesses to drive down their costs associated with health insurance. In this sense, Doherty seems to follow more of a hands off approach (he seems to prefer small businesses work together on their own to increase competition), whereas Donoghue appears to take a more proactive role.