Town of Salisbury Spends $100K on Tomaselli Debacle – Refuses to Release Documents Showing Claimed $100K Legal Costs

Town of Salisbury Finance Director Andrew Gould gave the appearance of complying with the state’s public records law.

On May 1st The Valley Patriot requested of the Town of Salisbury to produce “documents showing the legal cost and all other costs for the town’s multiple lawsuits and legal issues with the Tomaselli sisters from 2005 to present…”. 

On May 13th, the town responded three days past the ten day requirement set forth by Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 66 section 10,  which states “A custodian of a public record shall, within ten days following receipt of a request for inspection or copy of a public record, comply with such request.” 

The records being sought by The Valley Patriot concern the amount of the tax payer’s money town officials in Salisbury have spent on lawsuits related to Gracemarie and Joyce Tomaselli’s claim of a fraudulent $80Mil. sewer project. (STORY)

 The Valley Patriot has been investigating the towns actions in taking the home and land from two sisters named Gracemarie and Joyce Tomaselli. The dispute began over a $15,000 sewer betterment charge they refused to pay after learning it was really a bill owed by the prior owner of their property. 

Instead of releasing the public documents showing the amount of public money being spent on the debacle, Finance Director Andrew Gould sent an email containing no documents contrary to what the newspaper requested. Gould “estimates the town has spent nearly $100,000 fighting the Tomasellis in court. 

Gould’s email of May 13th stated: 

“In regard to your request for the amount of money the Town has spent in legal fees. The Town used two attorneys.

Kopelman and Paige in which the Town spent $ 55,000 and Coppola and Coppola which the Town spent $ 45,000 for a total of $ 100,000. This does not include many employees time and effort which is impossible to calculate.

I believe this satisfies the information you requested.”

Valley Patriot Attorney Allan Knowles of Andover said that the email does not comply with the state’s public records law, nor does it satisfy the information requested by The Valley Patriot.

“Mr. Duggan was very specific, he requested documents showing amounts of money spent by the town. An email from a public employee estimating costs without actual documents to back it up is not what The Valley Patriot asked for. Further, The Valley Patriot has now been waiting thirty days for documents the law says must be turned over in ten days.” 

Knowles said that The Valley Patriot is filing a complaint with the Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s Office and if the public documents are not released by Friday May 30th, a civil complaint will be filed in Newburyport Superior Court. 

Original email request by Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan to Salisbury Finance Director Andrew Gould: 

From: []
Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2014 2:10 PM
Subject: Public Records Request

 Mr, Gould

Under the state’s Public Records Law Chapter 66 please remit documents showing the legal cost and all other costs for the town’s multiple lawsuits and legal issues with the Tomaselli sisters from 2005 to present.

Please also note that the cost of such production of documents is strictly regulated by statute.

My understanding is that others have previously asked for this information and were told it would cost hundreds of dollars. This is not acceptable under the law.

 I expect to hear from you within the ten days required by law and I expect a reasonable fee to be charged. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions regarding our request.

Please also note that The Valley Patriot’s Attorney Allan Knowles has been CC’d on this communication as well as State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives.