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Kraft dispute prompts Foxborough squabble

Town manager at odds with selectman

KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/FILE 2011

Town Manager Kevin Paicos (above) has been called combative by Foxborough selectmen chairman Larry Harrington.

The chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Foxborough wants to explore disciplinary proceedings against Town Manager Kevin Paicos, contending that bad advice, combative behavior, and mismanagement by Paicos prompted a lawsuit by the Kraft Group and injured relations with the town’s largest taxpayer.

The turmoil in town government, simmering because of a proposed casino, boiled over in March when Paicos advised Larry Harrington, chairman of the selectmen, not to allow Kraft Group lawyers to speak at a public meeting concerning billboard revenue that the two sides have shared until now. Paicos said it would sully a new bidding process for rights to the billboards.

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Subsequently, the Kraft Group, which owns Gillette Stadium and the New England Patriots, filed a federal civil rights complaint, and a judge agreed it should be heard.

The lawsuit was dropped last week, along with a demand for $50,000 in legal fees, after Selectmen James DeVellis and Lynda Walsh met with Robert Kraft. But at Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting and in a four-page memo addressed to Paicos and publicly distributed Wednesday, Harrington said Paicos has caused undue harm all around.

Tuesday’s meeting addressed a 15-page document Paicos prepared to explain his actions in the billboard controversy. The memo went far beyond the March meeting and described, among other incidents, a private March 1, 2011, meeting to discuss billboards and water and sewer issues.

According to Paicos, Kraft Group officials asked to have veto power over future sewer hookups to businesses that might be competitive. Town Counsel Paul DeRensis said that would appear to violate federal antitrust law and could not be accomplished, Paicos wrote, and Harrington then “directed’’ DeRensis and Kraft Group attorney John Twohig to find some legal way around those concerns.

In the memo, Paicos said he and DeRensis told Kraft officials they would walk out of the meeting if the matter was addressed again. The veto request, as well as one to exempt Patriot Place restaurants from a potential meals tax, were then dropped, Paicos wrote.

‘I’ve been telling people for weeks he wants to fire me.’

Kevin Paicos, town manager
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At Tuesday’s meeting, Paicos cited his notes from the meeting and said he stood by them. He made a copy of the handwritten pages public Wednesday in an e-mail after conferring with the town’s attorney, he said, as well as his own lawyer.

Harrington responded with a memo of his own Wednesday, saying that he never directed anyone to do anything in the matter, nor did he have authority to do so, and that Paicos’s characterization of him as “a lone wolf’’ is incorrect.

Harrington also said Paicos’s memo “failed to address the questions posed, contained numerous errors and opinions contrary to facts,’’ and was a waste of two weeks’ work.

He further said Paicos has operated against the advice of other town officials and once told the Krafts in a meeting he would “bury them publicly.’’

“You fail to mention how many times you were told that the Kraft organization refused to deal with you because of your arrogance and disrespect,’’ Harrington wrote. “. . . This lawsuit was a direct result of your mismanagement.’’

An e-mail DeRensis sent to selectmen Tuesday seemed to align with Harrington’s position.

“I do not recall Larry’s exact words, but it was something to the effect of: ‘Let’s have the legal issues worked out and resolved by the lawyers. I am not a lawyer,’ ’’ DeRensis wrote. “I did not take away the understanding that I was required to work through any of the illegalities identified during the meeting.’’

It’s not clear what sort of disciplinary action might be pursued, and the situation is complicated by the fact that Harrington and another incumbent, Lorraine Brue, are up for reelection next Monday.

What is clear is that relations between Paicos and the board, particularly Harrington, have been deteriorating for months.

“I’ve been telling people for weeks he wants to fire me,’’ Paicos said in an interview Wednesday. “Larry keeps saying he’s not out to bring charges; obviously that has been his intent all along.’’

He added, “I just want to get back to the work of the community and work out the billboard issue with the Kraft organization.’’

A spokesman for the Kraft Group declined to comment Wednesday.

At Tuesday’s meeting, several selectmen told Harrington the criticisms of Paicos were better discussed behind closed doors so as not to invite more litigation, and they made a motion to adjourn. But the meeting continued for a period before the board decided to address the matter at his upcoming performance review.

“I think it is in the town’s best interest not to conduct this discussion any further,’’ Brue said. “I would feel very concerned it’s not good for the town.’’

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.
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