Friday, February 12, 1999
Town employees to be deposed in Ward suit
Four Carlisle town employees have found themselves entangled if secondarily in a local land dispute. As recipients of subpoenas in an action involving Cross Street landowner Lewiston Ward of Sebago, Maine, developer William Costello and real estate broker Brigitte Senkler, the officials are awaiting discovery and deposition visits from attorneys representing Ward.
Town clerk Sarah Andreassen, assessor's administrator Rena Swezey, board of health agent Linda Fantasia and conservation administrator Katrina Proctor have been ordered to testify "as to your knowledge about land belonging to Lewiston Ward." They were also ordered "to have available all documents" pertaining to Chapter 61 transactions covering the 57-acre property dating from January 1996 to the present. A representative from the new Carlisle town counsel Deutsch Williams Brooks DeRensis Holland and Drachman, P.C.will be present for the as-yet- unscheduled interviews.
Although reluctant "to try the case in the newpaper" Ward's attorney, Joel Eigerman of Roche, Carens and Giacomo was willing to say that the case involved a series of contracts entered into between Ward and Costello. Reached by telephone, Senkler's attorney Robert Kutner stated that his client had merely introduced the two parties, and that he has filed a motion to dismiss the action that names her firm as a defendant. That action is due to be considered by the court on February 23.
Eigerman stressed that the crux of the case rests in his client's assertion that the contract between himself and Costello for future sale of land belonging to the plaintiff "is not enforceable." In support of this interpretation Eigerman cited a doctrine which, he says, establishes that a court will not enforce a contract that is against public policy or law.
This is apparently the point on which town officials are being asked to furnish information. Swezey reports that in 1997 Ward requested that land he owned and held under Chapter 61 be withdrawn from that status. Under that chapter, land is granted special tax abatements with the proviso that the town have first refusal to purchase the property, if there is to be a change of use, or in other words, if the land is to be dedicated to purposes other than forestry. Swezey's records show that Ward paid the back taxes declaring that there was to be no change of use for a set period of time. Concerned for the town's interests, Swezey checked with the Massachusetts departments of revenue, environmental management and forestry, and was told, that under this kind of "voluntary withdrawal" the town had no choice but to comply with the owner's wishes, and the tax lien was removed.
Eigerman stated emphatically that his client had no desire to enmesh the town in what is basically a private matter, and that the employees were being called to provide background information only.
For his part, Costello seemed genuinely surprised at the turn of events, expressing dismay that town officials were being "inconvenienced." He indicated that he does not yet own the land, but that he has what he considers a valid contract. "Anything that I've done has been in compliance with past town counsel opinions, and if and when I decide to exercise my rights under the contract, I will again do so in consultation with the same authorities," he declared.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito