During Zoning Board of Appeals hearings on the Park Central development projects, then-member Leo Bartolini came under public fire for his handling of matters. Residents appealing the ZBA’s approval of the 40B project sought to force him to testify in the trial in process.
Last Thursday, local media wrote that Bartolini’s personal lawyer was seeking to quash the subpoena. An update to the docket on Friday appears to indicate he was successful.
On March 4th, Metrowest Daily News (and sister publications) wrote:
Leo F. Bartolini Jr., the former Southborough Zoning Board of Appeals chairman accused of impropriety by residents suing over a controversial development, asked a judge Thursday to excuse him from testifying in the case, citing medical reasons.
A lawyer for Bartolini told Worcester Superior Court Judge William J. Ritter that his client — who resigned his chairmanship in 2016 during a removal effort — is suffering “memory issues” from a medical condition he did not wish to publicly disclose. . .
Lawyers for the plaintiffs — who oppose a large mixed-use housing development they say would endanger public safety — panned the timing of the motion as “suspicious.” . . .
[Plaintiff’s attorney Daniel J. Pasquarello], mindful of the impoundment, did not go into much detail, but noted the records were more than a year old. He said despite a note in the records alluding to issues to be followed up on, there were no other records presented to the court indicating that happened. . .
Pasquarello, noting Bartolini is a key witness in the case, requested Ritter require him to testify. He argued the motion to quash the subpoena, in addition to being suspect on its merits, was also filed late.
As the article noted, Judge Ritter of Worcester Superior Court said he would take the matter under advisement. In the online docket for the case, a March 5th update appears to show the judge ruled in favor of Bartolini’s request:
Endorsement on Motion to Quash Subpoena and for a Protective Order (#51.0): ALLOWED
The court credits the medical documents dated February 3, 2020 and January 12, 2021 (which are subject to an Impoundment Order dated February 25, 2021 (paper #54)) and has applied the two prong test set forth in Commonwealth v. Allen, 40 Mass. App Ct. 458, 461 (1996). See Mass. G. Evid. § 601(b)(2020); Commonwealth v. Trowbridge, 419 Mass. 750, 755 (1995) (witness needs ability to “observe, remember and recount”). Moreover, the medical records, taken together, makes it clear that the witness’s medical issues are not a recent contrivance to avoid testimony in this trial. Notices mailed 3/5/21
Initially, Bartolini chaired the ZBA Park Central hearings on the 40B and Use Variance applications. After a July 2016 petition from residents called for his ouster, Bartolini moved down from Chair to act as a member (one of three presiding over the 40B hearings).
A second petition renewed calls for Bartolini’s removal from the ZBA. While accusations focused on his interactions with residents, the complaints included his “lack of concern for the public safety aspect of adding Park Central traffic to Flagg Road”.
The Board of Selectmen held a formal removal hearing during which accusations against Bartolini included alleged unreported conflicts of interest and other behavior related to Park Central hearings. Ultimately, Bartolini prevailed in that hearing process, but resigned near the end of his term.*
To read MWDN’s full coverage of last week’s hearing on the Motion to Quash the petition, click here.
The Park Central trial resumed over zoom this morning as scheduled with testimony from plaintiffs. Following a break it will resume again at 11:50 am. As I previously noted, the plaintiffs’ attorneys informed the court that Southborough Town officials would be called to testify the week of March 22nd.
*Updated (3/9/21 3:22 pm): Initially, I wrote that Bartolini resigned ” after selectmen refused to reimburse him for his legal defense expenses”. That was based on coverage by local media at the time.
Just now, as I was looking through selectmen’s old minutes for a completely different story, I came across a section of the Board of Selectmen’s minutes from the meeting two weeks after Bartolini stated he was resigning. The minutes state:
[Selectman Bonnie Phaneuf] wanted to make the public aware that Mr. Bartolini told Chairman Kolenda prior to the meeting that he had made the decision to not seek reappointment; his resignation was not a result of the outcome of the meeting.
However, it is worth pointing out that his term wasn’t set to expire until June 30th.
Updated (3/10/21 12:14 pm): The Telegram reported last night:
Lawyers and Ritter discussed the ruling out of earshot at a sidebar during the resumption of the virtual trial on Zoom Tuesday morning. The residents then moved on to call a different witness.
Ginny Kremer, one of the residents’ lawyers, told the Telegram & Gazette Tuesday that she anticipates filing a motion for reconsideration of the ruling.