Residents submit warrant article to reimburse ‘Southborough Eight’ legal fees

Two Southborough residents have submitted a warrant article to reimburse more than $14K in legal fees incurred by town employees during the so-called Southborough Eight investigation.

Southborough resident and Advisory Committee member Jim Hegarty, who submitted the article along with resident Mark Murphy, said his goal was to help bring closure to the town and the employees.

“I’m not looking to rehash the whole episode, assign blame, or second guess anyone,” Hegarty said. “My motivation is strictly to get these people reimbursed and hopefully close the book on this ugly event.”

The Board of Selectmen last summer considered whether to reimburse the legal fees of town employees who were part of a 7-month investigation after comments made at an off-hours gathering at Pizzeria Uno in 2009 came to light. The employees were ultimately cleared of wrongdoing.

Selectmen John Rooney and Bill Boland were strongly in favor of reimbursing the employees, but after consulting with town counsel, the board concluded that money would have to be appropriated at town meeting. That means the final decision will be up to voters in April.

Hegarty said he and Murphy submitted the warrant article back in December. Nineteen registered town voters signed the article in support of getting it on the warrant.

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13 years ago

Does anyone know on what basis our insurance company refused to pay these expenses as a coverable claim?

13 years ago

I have some concerns with this request to reimburse. Is it possible that these various department heads were too quick to call in legal representation? And once the attorneys get involved, doesn’t everything take longer and cost more? Employees tend to avail themselves of attorneys after some punitive action is taken. If they prevail in their counter-action, then quite often their legal fees are reimbursed. To retain counsel before such an event is certainly their right but I’m not certain that we as a town need to cover their costs.

13 years ago

There are a few question that need to be asked and aswered to the satisfaction of the taxpayers before anyone should be coming to us on this issue.

First, why was the Town’s claim to the insurance company for coverage of this expense rejected? If our insurance company seems to feel the town is not responsible than why should we?

Second, has the investigation into the behavior of these employees been completed? If not, it is too early for us to determine if reimbursement is appropriate.

Third, if the investigation has been completed, when will the FULL investigation report be issued for the taxpayers to read and consider? How can we vote on this without the full report?

This is what needs to happen and IN THIS ORDER:

1. The BOS needs to announce that the investigation into this matter is complete.
2. The BOS needs to publicize the reason(s) why the Town’s insurance company refused to pay the claim.
3. The BOS (as per MA Open Meeting Law) needs to release the FULL final report of the investigation.
4, The BOS needs to release the complete invoices for the legal services provided to these town employees. This includes the full invoices from BOTH attorneys.
5. A warrant article should be brought to the taxpayers asking for reimbursement of legal fees if, in fact, reimbursement appears to be warranted based on facts contained in the documentation listed above.

The town hasn’t even begun to properly justify this expense and they are going to ask us to vote on it in 6-7 weeks??? All this based on the emotion which was whipped up last year, much of it over-stated and some of the most important elements not true. These employees WERE told what they were being brought into Executive Session to discuss and it appears taht they DID seek legal counsel prior to attending.

Last, what about the precedent this sets? There are many instances where employees seek legal counsel for disagreements with the town. Are we going to extablish a “fund” for this type of reimbursement?

I would rather spend my money on the school system, police and fire services. If employees act in a way that instigates an investigation, they should pay their own legal expenses.

13 years ago

And what about the taxpayers being reimbursed for attorney’s fees, etc. WE paid for this months-long bogus investigation? Didn’t I read somewhere it ran to $100,000? Best use of taxpayer funds? NOT!

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