Monday, June 20, 2011

The Sleaze Factor In Southbridge Politics

Kenneth M. O’Brien

It would be nice if politics were transparent.

In reality, we all know that it is not.

But, when there is an organized effort at deceptive rumor-mongering, then it deserves to be exposed.

Regrettably, for reasons that I have addressed previously, that is unlikely to happen locally.

Anybody who has not been living under a rock in Southbridge for the last five years knows that there is a clear division that is represented on the town council.

In my experience, one of these groups has acted in a concerted manner. Increasingly, that group has also acted in a manner that, in my opinion, is both deceptive and unscrupulous.

The other group reminds me of nothing more than the famous words of Will Rogers. “I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” That is not to say that members of this group are all Democrats. They are in fact split 50/50 between registered Democrats and Republicans.

While others and I have protested the lack of cohesion among the current minority on the council, any informed observer cannot fail to recognize the lock-step behavior of the current majority.

Lately, however, the tactics of the majority as regards the upcoming election have become increasingly sinister.

Anonymous letters have been circulated impugning the integrity of a current councilor seeking reelection. Two councilors have even given credence to these letters in the public forum of a council meeting. (It should be noted that none of the properties in question are in the name of the councilor).

If one is going to engage in such actions, even using the term “thieves” to characterize those who are behind on tax or utility payments for whatever reason, then they should be sure that their colleagues come to the table with clean hands.

Such is not the case, as the following document illustrates:

Click Image To Enlarge

Now, I don’t care why this happened. I just believe that hard-working people who are struggling to make ends meet in a challenging economy should not be castigated for reasons that are totally unrelated to their public service.

Further, I think that it is incumbent upon candidates for office (particularly two who are running as part of this coalition and have similar skeletons in their closets) should repudiate these tactics.

Then there is the issue of an email that has been circulated by the relative of a current councilor (who was one of those publicly calling for the investigation of the charges made in the anonymous letter). The allegations have been proven to be scurrilous and totally false. The councilor in question has apologized privately, but given the circulation of this canard I believe that far more is called for.

Finally, there is the issue of who is the architect behind these kinds of reprehensible tactics.

Certainly they seem to bear the imprint of a former councilor who has become well known for questionable tactics and anonymous letters.

Having taken papers out to run in the upcoming election, this individual subsequently declined to return them.

Perhaps it came as a result of having to face questions relating to the leak of town council executive session minutes as addressed in the report of the state police investigation into the matter as we alone reported.

As always, the issue of plausible deniability arises. For those who think that I am spinning Glen-Beck-like conspiratorial fantasies, this particular former councilor has booked a local restaurant for the post-election party for the three candidates who are running with the seeming imprimatur of the current council majority.

As I am fond of saying, quoting George Bernard Shaw, “Democracy is a system of government that guarantees that people get what they deserve.”

I can only assume, as counter-intuitive as it may be, that voters feel that they deserve property values declining faster than other local communities, unemployment rates exceeding local averages and property tax rates that exceed those of other local towns. Why else would they keep voting to support the current ruling bloc?

To close with another quote of which I am fond, from Georges Santayanna, “Those who cannot learn history are destined to repeat it.”


  1. It's interesting how all the posts that are made on today's (6/21) T&G article about the liquor license issue that came up at last night's council meeting mysteriously vanish shortly after they appear.

  2. Bravo! Bravo!
    We all have skeletons in our closets. It's the ones that keep their own hidden, while persecuting others for also having them that offends me.

  3. It's nice to see that the comments have been restored to the T&G blog!

  4. Do any of you know what an MLC is? Seriously do you? This actually shows the taxes have been paid and up to date. These are required through some insurance companies when work is being done on your home, and when refinancing.

    If you look closely, you will see that the taxes were paid. Oh, and $15 charge...bills do cross in the mail at times you know.

    Municipal Lien Certificate: A municipal lien certificate is a legal document that lists all taxes, assessments and water charges owed on a parcel. These documents are usually requested by law offices in preparation of a refinance or sale of a property. Each request should include a property description, parcel number and a self addressed, stamped envelope. The fee for each certificate varies from $25.00 to $150.00, depending on the Class Code. Please see the list below for the actual cost for each Class Code. You can find the class code on your tax bill or from the Assessing Office appraisal database on this site. If a property has more than one parcel of land, a certificate must be ordered for each parcel. The certificates are usually prepared within 3 to 4 business days depending on how involved the request is and on peak collection times in the collector’s office.

  5. A tax lien is a lien imposed by law upon a property to secure the payment of taxes. A tax lien may be imposed for delinquent taxes owed on real property or personal property, or as a result of failure to pay income taxes or other taxes.

  6. Get A Clue:
    Quit blowing smoke.
    You are correct as to why people get an MLC.
    And the reason why they are needed in those cases is to show clear title to the property.
    An existing lien obviates clear title until it is settled.
    Many, perhaps most, people get these without showing multiple years of unpaid property taxes or water and sewer bills.
    Quit trying to cloud the facts.

  7. I clouded no facts. They are as clear as day. Show me a Tax Taking Certificate filed on this property, you will find none. Go ahead, you can find it the same place that you found the MLC, that's of course if it is there. I looked and found none. I did find some on other people though, I will not mention names, but they know who they are.

    Just for the record, work done on my home in excess of $10,000 required an MLC from the town through my insurance company. Guess what, it showed the past three years of my taxs too. It also showed my water bill and sewer that were upcoming. It showed everything I paid for and everything that was about to be due.

    You sir are the one who is blowing smoke.

  8. Did yours show interest charges for the remaining unpaid balance as this one does?

  9. This posting is found in the comment section of the T and G article entitled: "

    Southbridge councilor questions renewal of Lazo license"

    I am posting it here because I thought it clearly puts things in perspective.

    "JWL wrote:
    The present economy is very bad. Everyone knows the building and construction trades have been in decline for the last few years. I can understand how all people have fallen behind in their payments, especially those in Mr. Lazo's line of work, construction. What I don't understand is why Councilor Clemence and Town Manager Clark decided to embarass people publicly by publishing their names in the paper during these difficult times. Clemence seems so filled with hatred when I see her at the meetings.

    Steve Lazo and Rich Logan have tried to keep our taxes down and keep government spending in check while Nikolla, Clemence, Livengood, Regis and now Spinelli, have voted to increase them and give free rein to the Town Manager. Dr. Logan always conducts himself as a gentleman yet Cathy Nikolla and Denise Clemence insult him. I've seen it when I've watched the meetings. They're fresh.

    The Lazo's are in the construction business and I'm sure are finding it very difficult to get by, just like those people who've been laidoff.
    Yet despite the bad economy, they still donate their time and service to the town like setting the concrete for the AO sculpture and the foundation at the Honor Roll in Dresser Park, and working on the school committee and town council.

    Yet a power hungry wealthy woman who doesn't work and has too much time on her hands decides that she will use his family members to attack him politically so she can influence an election in which she wants the members of her clique to win. She never served on any government body prior to running for council 2 years ago.

    I find her to be a very angry and contentious woman who cannot show compassion to people who are struggling to get by in this economy. She doesn't condemn Cathy Nikolla's actions of calling citzens pigs and barnyard animals or the way she talks so rudely to people but will condemn a local contractor who himself shows compassion and commitment even in the midst of his own business suffering.

    Posted on Wednesday June 22, 2011 at 7:07 "

  10. Good comment on the T&G, Anonymous. It is vile and angry, despite having her own experience owing money to the town in the past. I hope she seeks counseling for her negative emotions.

    The tactic of embarrassing people by publishing their names -- not the legal section, which was the appropriate place to put it, if any – in an article that was handed to the newspaper by the Town Manager is a tactic that I think will eventually backfire on them. They're so disconnected that they don't understand the majority of people are hurting, or can relate to those that are. To do this, in this economy, puts them at odds with the majority. In the long run, it will be used against them. It showed how a corporation like the Southbridge Hotel has had special treatment (and tax incentives) while owing 1/4 million dollars, while good working citizens and families like the Lazos, are purposely embarrassed.

    I myself will probably be in the paper for the same. I look forward to it. I take full accountability for what I owe and will (eventually) pay it all off. But my case is probably no different than many people on that list. When I bought my house 9 years ago (with so much promise) my taxes were $1200 and my water and sewer was reasonable. I lovingly restored much of the house (which had become run down before us). For improving a little corner of Southbridge the town thanked me by increasing my taxes to almost to $5000 and water and sewer 200%, while my property value (because of the dump and housing market in Southbridge) has gone down 60%. Eventually my well planned out budget for owning my own home 9 years ago got completely thrown out of whack. Thanks, Southbridge! Now how do I “Not Make Southbridge Home.COM”?

  11. Another post from the T and G comments section of that article:

    "KarmaTwin wrote:

    Clemence is an embarrassment to Southbridge.

    She is a political hack, who, like Nixon, is using her "power, money, lawyers, influence and friends" to serve her own dastardly deeds, and not that of the town.

    Her personal attacks on Lazo were included in a recent packet to the councilors, with the Town Manager's name on it, as well as the Police Chief.

    I didn't realize that the police could violate someone's 4th Amendment rights, but this being Southbridge, why stop the mouth that roared, especially when she's slobbering over the town manager and chief?

    We should all be so lucky as she, to marry into money, have a helicopter with which she can impress the local press, and do whatever she pleases.

    Yes, she's just like you and me.


    She is a rude individual, who calls people disrespectful.

    Look in the mirror please, and you'll see the most disrespectful person.

    Anyone voting for her fellow hacks Nikkola, Langevin, and Marcucci are nothing but fools, granting this incompetent more power.

    Why doesn't Hyde reign her in and end this debacle? Doesn't she bring shame to that good family name?

    Her being voted out of office can't happen soon enough.

    Posted on Wednesday June 22, 2011 at 10:35 AM"

  12. It appears that the T and G took the article "

    "Southbridge councilor questions renewal of Lazo license"

    off the Website.

  13. Do we really have to dance around it? We all have a damn good idea of who's behind this, and which current councilors are complicit with him.

    On a side note, whatever happened with the basketball dough that went missing?

  14. Oh, you guys. I don't mean to imply I'm not an airheaded moron or anything, but I TOTALLY AM. AND I AM IN SUCH AWESOME COMPANY.

    I think the next time I go to the town council's citizen's forum I'm going to bring some music with me and we can just all have a dance party. (I'll sing, so there will be something to enter into the minutes.)


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