Finance Committee Meeting
Executive Session Minutes – June 25, 2007
Town Hall, Lower Level Hearing Room – 8:00 P.M.
Members Present: Maria Anderson, Brian Fitzgerald, Gordon Gladstone, Charles
Goodman, Josh Kiernan, Joel Lessard, Ira Miller, Laura Nelson,
Edward Philips (Hamilton)
Absent: Joel Alpert, Jonathan Hitter, Gregory Sydney
1. Attorney Jon Rockwood presented the report by the Animal Control Officer, Diane Malcolmson. The first item was the Colaiacomo dog named Charlie. Diane was notified by kids being bitten by Charlie. The vast majority are handled by the Dog By-laws. There was a long history where the dog, Charlie, was threatening other dogs in the Dog Park. He bit a resident some time ago. He bit a boy in high school. Under Chapter 140, Section 157, a hearing is convened. Take testimony. It gives a broad description for disposition. Those hearings were held. The owner was present. The person who was bitten and the boy’s mother were there. The Selectmen voted to have Charlie removed from town. The owner appealed in the District Court. Clerk Magistrate Culhane confirmed the order that the dog be removed from town. She stole the dog from the shelter. The Police Department was involved. They went back and got the dog. The dog owner gets to appeal the District Court Magistrate’s judgment. It took all day. After trial, we prevailed there. Colaiacomo found someone to take the dog and train it. She would indemnify the town. That was 70 days for Charlie.
2. Laura Nelson asked if it was decided for the town, why is the town responsible not the dog owner.
3. Jon Rockwood stated that the Town of Canton does it to assist the Town of Sharon.
4. Diane Malcolmson stated that our agreement is that they shelter any dog we pick up. The owner is responsible for payment. The owner refused to pay. She doesn’t have the dog. She didn’t want to pay.
5. Brian Fitzgerald asked why didn’t we put a lien on her property.
6. Jon Rockwood stated that a municipal lien places against the resident. The Town Meeting has to adopt the specific purpose of fees and charges. Dog fees are not one of them. We’re putting on the Fall Town Meeting. In the future the town can put a lien on property.
7. Gordon Gladstone asked if you can take her to Small Claims Court. Why should the town have to pay?
8. Ira Miller stated that the town pays the Town of Canton.
9. There was considerable discussion regarding Small Claims Court, the cost and time involved and that the Animal Control Officer can file a claim instead of the attorney.
10. Jon Rockwood stated that we filed in Small Claims Court and have a judgment against Virginia Brennan. If she doesn’t pay, she could be arrested.
11. Chuck Goodman commented on the legal expense of $21,000 on these dog cases. That is a total of 175 hours.
12. Brian Fitzgerald commented that since we won in court, did we ask for the individual to pay for attorneys’ fees?
13. Jon Rockwood explained that attorneys’ fees will not be allowed if it’s not in the statute, Chapter 140, Section 157.
14. Ira Miller stated that the town owes the Canton Kennel $1,050. The next case was BaiHai.
15. Jon Rockwood presented the case as follows: 5 Prince Way. That household has a long history of violations. Leash laws, barking. The history was so extensive, the Selectmen initiated a hearing process. Joanne Rogers was to pay. She did come in and paid off fees just to return to behavior of allowing dogs off property. Elderly residents, small children were terrorized. These dogs got off property acting in tandem. Trapped individuals in garages. Nipped at people. Kept people in cars. Barking and menacing. Number of families would only allow children outside while they carried golf clubs. After hearing in November ’05, ordered Yellow and Baihai removed from town permanently. Signed over to Virginia Brennan. Rogers relinquished ownership. With two dogs gone things were quiet. March/April ’06, the dog, Yellow, reappeared in Sharon. The Animal Control Officer took control of dog that remained in the kennel. We negotiated with attorney and Brennan for payment of $1,200. $300 was paid. She went to kennel in late July. $300 cash with balance to pay $1,290. They didn’t comply. The attorney made an oral agreement. He was to provide us with a written agreement that she would pay.
16. Diane Malcolmson stated we have brought Small Claims judgment of $1,290 now that their dogs are in the shelter.
17. Jon Rockwood stated that she has 30 days to pay judgment. If, by June 30 she doesn’t make payment, we go back to court for capeas. Arrest and bring to court. Imposes a payment order on her. If she doesn’t pay that, she’ll be in contempt. They usually pay up when they go to court, now that we have a judgment against her. That judgment is on record. They’ll make the plaintiff hold if she goes for mortgage.
18. Jon Rockwood reported that the owners, Joanne Rogers and Tanya Lambert, came to court. They want the dogs back. The judge took pity on them and didn’t grant Town of Sharon ownership. On August 6, two dogs got out and went on a wild rampage in the neighborhoods. These dogs were in and out of houses, bit a landscaper, nipped another worker. We decided, in consultation with Selectmen, immediate action had to be taken. We couldn’t shoot the dogs. Got an order from the judge that allowed the town to go into 5 Prince Way and take any dogs on the premises. We didn’t need to have Police. It wasn’t criminal, it was a civil order. Police this property by Animal Control Officer. Baihai was brought back in October ’06. This led to 255 days in the kennel. The dog is still in the kennel. Missy was picked up on day we got order. One was owned by someone who didn’t live in Sharon. Returned to owner. Tanya had history being troublesome owner. It was a real crisis on August 31. People were really very frightened of this very dangerous, uncontrolled dog and uncaring owners. The town had to act quickly. As of the next day, 5 Prince Way has been clean of dogs. Neighbors, for two years prior, were appreciative of town’s efforts. Up until this point our position has been if you want these dogs back, neither one can stay in Sharon and you pay all fees. To end this process, Rogers has agreed she will not keep Baihai in Sharon. They made an offer to pay a minimal amount. As long as that dog’s out of Sharon, let out of kennel. Still in civil litigation. Could end up with judgment against her as long as we did pursue criminal with District Attorney’s Office. She accepted conditions that she admitted to doing all bad things. On probation for months. If she brings dog back to Sharon, she can go to jail. We pursued on civil and criminal side. Kept dogs out of Prince Way. Work with owners to get dog out. Try to get some fees. Baihai gone for good. Missy to negotiate. Not one of troublesome dogs.
19. Diane Malcolmson stated that if it disturbs the peace, we can get citation.
20. Gordon Gladstone asked if these residents could take action on their own?
21. Jon Rockwood stated it would have been a civil action. Large degree of fear against these defendants. There was retaliation by these people. It is a bad neighborhood because of this one particular family.
22. There was much discussion held regarding the amount for Reserve Fund transfer of $10,710.
23. Ben Puritz reported that there is a Reserve Fund transfer request for the Law Budget generally. In the cover memorandum $53,050.87 overage. $35,750 related to two matters. One is the dogs, $21,500. The other matter had to do with acquisition of Horizons for Youth. But for these two matters, the overage would be $18,000 rather than $53,000.
24. There was some discussion regarding the Law budget.
25. A question was raised regarding what couldn’t be said in open session which was discussion of legal fees, getting dogs out of kennel as soon as we can, and not telling the other side.
26. Joe Roach reported that he and Rich Powell were asked to go to court in Stoughton. They were there at 9 a.m. and left there at 4:30 p.m. Half-hour for lunch. In the courtroom the whole day.
27. Jon Rockwood stated that it was a trial before a judge. We brought witnesses. Both people who were bitten. People from the Dog Park. Selectmen could give hearing information.
28. There was some discussion held.
29. A MOTION was made by Gordon Gladstone and SECONDED by Ted Philips to go back to Open Session.
30. VOTED: 9-0-0.
31. Executive Session adjourned at 8:50 p.m.