Lawsuit Puts State Rep in 'Murky Situation' in Bridgewater
March 12, 2012
by Amy Carboneau
State Rep. Angelo D'Emilia, R-Bridgewater, has waded into what at least one political pundit is calling a "murky situation" by filing a lawsuit against the town he represents.
"It would be hard for him to separate his own financial motive of suing the town, from his objective motive for what is or is not good for Bridgewater," said political science professor Peter Ubertaccio at Stonehill College in Easton.
D'Emilia filed a lawsuit last week against the town of Bridgewater, claiming the town did not follow state law when it moved to buy 143 acres of land that D'Emilia planned to purchase and develop.
To pay the $3.5 million purchase price under its "right of first refusal," the town used roughly $1.8 million from its Community Preservation Act fund; an $800,000 donation from trustee Faelton Perkins, one of the owners of the 143-acre parcel; $475,000 from two nonprofit organizations and $400,000 from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Community Preservation Commission member Marilee Kenney Hunt declined last week to comment on D'Emilia's suit against the town.
She did note that when news broke last June that he was close to signing a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy the land, she and other town authorities involved mentioned that the case could become "high profile" because of his lawmaker status.
The town voted in October to acquire the funding and buy the land, where D'Emilia wanted to build 97 homes. It's a largely wooded plot of land that abuts the Taunton River on the Bridgewater-Halifax line.
D'Emilia wouldn't talk about the lawsuit, but his attorney, Jeffery Tocchio, said D'Emilia's role as a state representative "has nothing to do with it."
"He's got the same legal rights as anybody else," Tocchio said.
Toccio has said the main thrust behind the lawsuit is to point out how the town failed to exercise its right-of-first refusal properly, while attempting to strike a deal of its own.
Tocchio said D'Emilia is not going "against the people. He's basically seeking to have the state statute upheld."
Political science professor Mike Kryzanek, of Bridgewater State University, said the decision to sue, in one way, comes off as self-serving.
"There will always be some who will be suspicious of his motives," Kryzanek said.
But D'Emilia's legal rights trump the politics involved, added Kryzanek.
"We're still a nation where people who feel they've been wronged can use the court system to right that wrong," he said. "At the same time, he must know that taking that action is going to have some political repercussions."
But Bill Rivers, who chairs the Bridgewater Republican party, said the repercussions could actually help D'Emilia, especially if he wins the suit.
"I'm glad he's standing up for himself," said Rivers. "And if the court proves him right, I think the town has some explaining to do."
D'Emilia's state representative district also includes Raynham and Easton's 6th precinct.
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