Friday, January 29, 2010

Wareham Fall Town Mtg. 10/28/08 (Night 2 of 3)

Part 1



Part 2
video

Part 3
video

Part 4
video

Part 5
video

Part 6
video

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Swifts Beach/"Missing Minutes" DA letters

These are 4 letters submitted to the DA's office through the ITA regarding the "missing minutes" investigation in 2008. The DA's findings and a refusal to extend the investigation beyond the issue of violations in the Open Meeting Law. The facts, in part, contained in Barbara Deighton Haupt's Letter -To- the Editor published in the Wareham Courier - also above - are being addressed in the Complaint addressed to the Massachusetts Ethics Commission and assert a Conflict of Interest on the part of Bruce Sauvageau.

You can see by the testimony offered by Cindy P. and Pat T, that Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Bruce Sauvageau was a party to the subject of taking of the land by Eminent Domain. Note that The purpose of using Eminent Domain was originally "to connect the beaches" at the 2003 Town Meeting, "public good", "emergency", "general municipal purposes", and various references to "recreation", "conservation" and "open space" were used by the authorities as the case proceeded to the conclusion (so far) with the payment of the jury award with Community Preservation Funds and the subsequent efforts for a Conservation Restriction request.

(Click Photos to Zoom)







Letter: Former Swifts Beach landowner addresses reconstructed minutes

Thu Apr 23, 2009, 06:08 AM EDT

To the editor:

Your feature story and editorial comments in the April 2, 2009 issue have prompted me to share the discovered facts made public through the "reconstructed" executive session minutes demanded by the Office of the Massachusetts District Attorney , Plymouth District. During the court proceedings in 2007, I was advised by counsel to not publicly discuss the eminent domain taking of my Swifts Beach property. After the trial and subsequent appeal by the town, I was advised to build a bonfire with all the files and materials - forget the whole thing. I didn't.

Just looking at the big numbers, you may surmise that I made a fortune from the proceeds generated by the jury award. I didn't. Fighting "City Hall" - especially a corrupt one - is very expensive. One cannot put a price on the emotional and financial trauma. Rather than rehashing the previous information offered to the public -some factual and some erroneous- I offer the following list of facts that I can back up with documents, videos, pictures, witnesses, and my very vivid memory.

2001: Lease granted to Bruce Sauvageau for parking lot as a continuation of his business relationship with former owner. He defaulted through late payments and not producing liability insurance to BD Realty Trust. Labor Day weekend, Susan Blais, the organizer/manager of the neighborhood group opposing home construction on the five acres, subleased the parking lot from Bruce for a family reunion without my permission. I refused to renew Bruce's lease for 2002.

Bruce and Rose Sauvageau offered to purchase the parking lot in 2001 with the additional offer to assist in the permitting of the residence. Bruce was on the Finance Committee. I refused. I don't do business that way.

2002-2003: Anticipating construction as approved by the DEP, I rented a house on Swifts Beach At the proposed site of the house, I installed a temporary electric service and connected a shower for parking patrons. I purchased a small camper to store beach chairs and equipment. Ted Meseziak, the zoning officer, sued me (criminally), claiming that I was living in the camper. Kopelman & Paige represented the town (Lawsuit #1 Mass. Superior Court Civil NO. 02-0856). After the case was dismissed, there were several incidents: vandalism of my personal property, ice picking the camper tires, broken windows, defacing my car, egging the camper. My parking lot attendants were harassed by Bruce's family members, who constantly trespassed on my land for a shortcut to the beach. The town’s municipal maintenance men took down a section of my fence and placed three different signs declaring my land a "public way.”

Bruce, now a selectman, opened up his side yard for public parking with illegal signs. The zoning officers issued me two cease and desist orders while Bruce openly ran his new enterprise -- which did very well, especially when my gate lock was filled with superglue on the hottest day of the summer.

2001-2003:Bruce organized and participated in the meetings and activities of this neighborhood group - mostly Bruce's family and close friends; not the Swifts Beach Improvement Organization, who remained silent on the issues. Georgia Chamberlain, as offered by Cindy (Chamberlain) Parola in the reconstructed minutes, paid for the general expenses of a group of neighbors and the appeal of the DEP Permit issued to BD Realty Trust. The Town of Wareham also appealed the permit (Lawsuit #2).

2003: In "the reconstructed minutes," then-Town Administrator Michael Hartman justified the eminent domain article to be part of the fall 2003 Town Meeting as an emergency. I guess he expected the DEP to turn down the town’s appeal. In his deposition during the pretrial depositions, Hartman stated that a group of people “…about the age of my parents" came into his office and wanted the town to buy the land. He couldn't recall their names. With no formal petition, he sponsored the article to "acquire" the land. My first knowledge of the article was the Courier legal ad, which I received three weeks later in Florida. The next day, Wednesday, I received a call from Hartman asking for a meeting to discuss "the land." Sitting in his office, he assured me that the town would use eminent domain only to clear the title. There was to be an appraisal. He handed me a letter that invited me to attend the site review the next day -a Saturday.

I tried to reach the Rochester number - never got an answer. The appraisal that has surfaced was dated several weeks after the Town Meeting where the people voted to acquire my property and another small lot for $500,000. Hartman offered $450,000. I refused and suggested that we negotiate for the beach, which was the purpose of the article. I wanted to build my house where planned. I also received a call from Jane Donahue. I met with her and Geoff Swett of the Finance Committee requesting a meeting at her house on Saturday. I agreed. They asked if I was willing to accept the $450,000. I gave them the same answer. No. I did attend the Town meeting, but didn't speak (not being a town voter). They were voting to acquire. I expected negotiations for the beach to take place. The handout showed the beaches being connected.

There were many omissions and large gaps in the "reconstructed minutes" from the executive sessions and many missing documents relative to the eminent domain taking (Lawsuit #3), the subsequent appeal (Lawsuit #4), settlement conference and the use of CPA funds (Lawsuit #5: a citizens group filing). I don’t believe that these are random omissions. The Town of Wareham and its attorneys have withheld information that we now have a right to know.

The executive session minutes and dealings were not available to me and my attorneys prior to our filing the lawsuit with the two counts: eminent domain was used in bad faith; and compensation.

I did not realize that we could pursue only one count once the hearing started. I was advised that since Count I was difficult to prove, especially with sketchy evidence and a conspiracy going on behind closed door, the only remedy to Count I was to get the land back. No damages. My costs were already over $700,000 and running. We went with Count II. We were up against a Town with an "open checkbook." Proving the claim for the value was strong, although damages above minimal witness fees are not allowed. The damages I incurred, over $700,000 in expenses, are not recoverable under the Massachusetts laws regulating eminent domain. Similar expenses incurred by the town of Wareham were paid out of the legal budget as part of the General Fund.

The prime things that occurred and did not surface in this investigation are:

1. When Renee Fernandes-Abbott told Town Meeting (2003) that there was no objection from the owner (DVD), she was obviously not aware of my discussions with Hartman nor my meeting with Donahue and Swett. Or she was telling a lie.

2. The vote, including the reading of the description and discussion to use eminent domain, took two minutes and 27 seconds. The deed was signed that night. There is no record of the executive session where these arrangements and decisions were made.

3. In addition to the missing minutes, seven CERTIFIED letters that I sent to the selectmen, Hartman, planning director, CPC, Conservation Commission, and others must have been destroyed. Although I have the green cards with the signature of the selectmen's assistant, all claim not to have received the letters refusing their offer of $450,000. My letter expressed a willingness to give the town the beach. The shredder in Hartman's office could have been working overtime.

In the letters responding to the request from the District Attorney’s office, the previous selectmen and Bruce Sauvageau, presently a selectman, offered the following (even this short version is revealing):

1. Renee Fernandes-Abbott has nothing and remembers nothing.

2. Brenda Eckstrom’s contribution is all hearsay.

3. Bruce Sauvageau protested the "reconstructed minutes" process and claimed that he had no memory or involvement in discussions on the Swifts Beach property.

4. Patrick Tropeano recalls being at three executive sessions regarding Swifts Beach: the trailer issue (going to court); the eminent domain subject (Bruce was present and wouldn’t leave); and the use of CPA funds to pay for the taking.

5. Cindy (Chamberlain) Parola sent two letters, in which she stated Kopelman and Paige attended some executive sessions with documentation of legal issues. She explained her mother's involvement as a party and financial donor in the neighbors’ campaign against me. Bruce and Rose Sauvageau attended these meetings. Bruce also would not leave executive sessions where the Swift Beach issues were discussed.

There were also four sets of executive session minutes typed and transposed from sketchy notes: 6-04-2007 (Discussion on the appeal of the jury decision and litigation with the appraiser’s "malfeasance.”); 8-27-2007 (Discussion of legal use of CPC money); 10-09-2007 (Nothing pertinent); and 10-19-2007 (Big discussion on the use of CPC money – legalities).

I did not have access to the executive session minutes until now.

The three important events regarding vital decisions on the Swifts Beach taking that are not included in the "reconstructed minutes" are:

1. An offer on our part to mediate, which was scheduled by both parties and then abruptly cancelled.

2. A sidebar offer under pressure from the judge for much less than the jury award.

Bruce Sauvageau was in the courtroom for four days of the trial. When he was approached by the town's counsel, he sat with his arms folded and shook his head "no.”

3. The settlement conference for the town's appeal of the jury decision award. took place at the Federal District Court in Boston July 17, 2007 The selectmen present were John Cronan, Jane Donahue and Bruce Sauvageau. They continued an executive session that had started in Wareham. Jane Donahue took notes.

The minutes from this and other executive sessions during the trial and up to Aug. 27, 2007 (the date the agreement was signed) are still missing.. The minutes after June 4, 2007 and up to Aug. 27, 2007 remain missing. During this period, the selectmen were scrambling for sources to pay the balance of the judgement -$1.1 million.. They were concerned about lawsuits involving the use of CPC Funds.

These facts and newly exposed backroom dealings are evidence of a conspiracy. The people of Wareham have the right to know.

Barbara Deighton Haupt