Northborough voters allocate money for court action against Southborough

by susan on April 28, 2010

It probably doesn’t come as a big surprise that Northborough Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly on Monday night to set aside $100K to take Southborough to court over the Algonquin reimbursement dispute.

“As a retired attorney, I came here tonight to argue against spending the money, but you’ve changed my mind,” resident Dan Ginsberg said after Town Administrator John Coderre outlined the reasons for taking Southborough to court. “It sounds to me like they (Southborough) have been unreasonable and all the steps you are taking seem correct.”

You can read more in the Metrowest Daily News.

1 Dean Dairy April 28, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Previously, I suggested that Southborough seek a compromise and avoid litigation based on the practical legal consideration of likely outcome.

http://www.mysouthborough.com/2010/04/26/northborough-votes-tonight-on-whether-to-take-southborough-to-court/#comment-21150

A voluntary compromise interpreting the terms of MGL 70B, sec 10(b) might be negotiated to an outcome more favorable to Southborough than litigating the issue. Southborough going to court insisting that the district agreement controls the allocation of state grant money is likely to result in an even less favorable, judge-imposed interpretation of the statute, which is not negotiable, only appealable at greater legal cost. There is also the possibility of costs and sanctions being awarded if Southborough’s defense is deemed frivolous.

The reasons for settlement are:

1.) the state statute specifying the allocation of state grant money between towns (with its income redistributionist intent) is likely to be held to supersede the district agreement;

2.) both sides benefit from avoiding the litigation;

3.) the exact formulas and the factors used in a negotiated voluntary agreement pursuant to the statute might result in an outcome more favorable to Southborough than one imposed by a court.

I haven’t seen a good evaluation of the numbers behind the “compromise” previously on the table. Absent such a presentation, Southborough should appoint an experienced negotiator and good number person to review the formula from the town’s interests. Then work the details. For example, it appears that not all the factors in the general grant formula in Ch 70B sec 10 apply to the regional allocation formula in Ch 70B sec 10(b). How were these factors used in the existing compromise proposal? Also, does all the money ascribed to the state grant really come within the ambit of the statute with respect to time and amount? At a minimum, let’s see what such a professional review delivers. (Wouldn’t this be a better use of tax dollars than lawyers paid for Deep Marty and Deep Dish?)

Unless somebody can explain how Ch 70B sec 10(b) doesn’t apply, or point to other statutory language that would have the district agreement supersede state law when it comes to the allocation of state grant money, I’d advise avoiding litigation.

Keep your perspective on what the courts are likely to do in response to what they’re given to decide.

If this seems unfair and violates the spirit if not the intent of the district agreement, look to Beacon Hill, not the courts. This is but only one of the more obvious examples of how income redistribution by the government tends to tear at existing social compact (here, the district agreement), always with the best intentions, of course. Other less obvious but perhaps more egregious examples include the whole raft of subsidies and bailouts now emanating from the state and federal governments in everything from housing, healthcare, autos, energy, appliance purchases, public pensions, banking and finance…the list continues.

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