Last November the Town of Salisbury finally responded to multiple public records requests showing that the town misled several courts when their lawyers claimed that the town was court ordered to abate water pollution, (mandated to construct the U.S. EPA/State sewer project) and that this “one project” included contracts one to five as well as seven and eight.
For years the town refused to turn over the public records of this Town Meeting vote, then trying to charge an unreasonable sum of money to prevent their release, Secretary of State Galvin’s office intervened and the town reduced its fee from $1,250 to $25 to obtain the records.
THERE ARE NO RECORDS BECAUSE THERE WAS NO VOTE
The town admitted that there was no Town Meeting vote of approval for the sewer construction project that included Contract 7 and Contract 8. “The Town has researched the Town Meeting warrants … and found no relevant town meeting article/vote for “the Town Meeting Vote”(between 1982 – 1989) to ORDER THE CONSTRUCTION, with the project plan, and estimate for the U.S. EPA/State mandated Sewer Project which, according to the Town, included Sewer Contract Numbers 1,2,3,4,5,7, and 8.”
Finally, the Tomaselli’s (who sued the town) have proof that the town lied to the courts to overcharge ratepayers.
The importance of this town’s admission is that this is how they won in every court, including Land Court. They claimed that the town voted a betterment in 1992 making Gracemarie and Joyce Tomaselli appear liable for a $7.8 Million betterment because the property they purchased on March 7, 1991 was included in the EPA/State court ordered sewer project which the town claimed included contract 7 and 8.
It took years for the Tomasellis to receive the May 17, 1982 Town Meeting assessment order vote to construct the state mandated U.S. EPA/State sewer project. Town officials, with the aid of their attorneys, actively concealed this May 17, 1982 Town Meeting assessment order vote (from Tomaselli and the courts) because the Tomasellis did not own the property in 1982. In 1991 they were new buyers – bona fide purchasers of property with no liens or encumbrances recorded at the Registry of Deeds at the time of the title search.
In violation of state law, the town failed to record this May 17, 1982 assessment order vote to construct this sewer with the project plan and estimate at the Registry of Deeds.
To win and make the Tomasellis appear liable, town officials and their attorneys fabricated to the courts that the valid assessment vote was on March 16, 1992 for a $7.8 Million betterment – voted at a Sewer Commissioners and Selectmen meeting. Although this fact was not true, Land Court Judge Gordon H. Piper used this “as a fact” in his decision to foreclose on Tomaselli’s property.
Town officials testified that the EPA/State mandated sewer project included contracts 1,2,3,4,5,7 and 8 and that the Town needed to recover the 10% local share of what the Town claimed was an $80 M mandated sewer project that was 90% grant funded leaving $7.8 M (local share betterment) but none of this was true.
The Tomasellis requested public records for documents to support this Town’s claim. Town Manager Neil Harrington finally admitted in his reply that there never was an $80 Million sewer project and the Town never received $72 million in grants. Manager Neil Harrington waited to reply until after the Town won in Land Court to take Tomaselli’s property.
The fact is, the Town won in Land Court because of their fake 1992 betterment assessment date and the town’s claim that they needed to recover $7.8 M for “the project” and charged a $7.8 M betterment. The Town never submitted relevant evidence to the courts.
The Town for years claimed that the 1992 local share increase of $7.8 M was for increase in construction costs for Elm Street Corridor and the [Upper] Lafayette Road Corridor sewer projects. However, by 1992 the Town did not construct these sewers.
Town and state records prove that contract 7 was four extraneous sewer projects and contract 8 was another extraneous project constructed in town. These projects were NOT mandated because of the Clean Water Act, because they were new sewers. Coincidently the area known as contracts 7 and 8 is where many town officials and sewer commissioners lived and some stilllive there which is why they were pushing so hard for construction in that area.
The town never voted at Town Meeting to order construction for these four projects (nicknamed contract 7) and never voted to order the construction of contract 8 (another project) but constructed these 5 sewer projects anyway! These sewer areas are in the town and had nothing to do with the mandated sewer project to abate pollution.
Although the assessment order vote imposing the assessment was May 17, 1982, Atty. Thomas McEnaney misrepresented to the courts that the sewer assessment vote was imposed in 1992 and the EPA/State sewer project included contracts 7 and 8.
The disturbing part is that Town Counsel Atty. Thomas McEnaney from the Town’s law firm KP Law (formerly Kopelman & Paige) actually posted on their website:
“On December 16, 2014 Attorney Thomas W. McEnaney secured a victory for the Town of Salisbury … challenging a sewer betterment assessment imposed in 1992…”
This means that the Town extorted $7.8 M plus interest from over 1,000 property owners in the EPA/State sewer project in the guise of a “betterment” and got away with it!
The town voted to charge any local share for sewer construction by the sewer user method – in 1991 billed capital cost recovery/betterments. In 1992 the Town charged business property owners betterments ranging between $10,000 to $93,000. These sewer bills caused many beach businesses to close; two men died removing the 2nd floor of the El Rancho Motel – the owner was trying to reduce his sewer charges so that he could afford to remain open.
The town then auctioned the Tomaselli sisters’ Mangia…a Café-Restaurant and 4 parcels of land at the beach for $775,000 and kept all the money.
This cost the Tomasellis their livelihood, restaurant, and home, over sewer bills that they never owed in the first place. What’s more, the Tomaselli sisters were maligned for years by elected officials, the Newburyport Daily News, and citizens at Town Meeting when they were called tax cheats and had their reputations destroyed. ◊