Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis opened Tuesday's discussion with The Kraft Group by issuing a public apology on behalf of the board for comments made by former town counsel Paul DeRensis in the Sept. 13 edition of the Foxboro Reporter.
"I saw the Reporter last week and for a past town counsel [DeRensis], that no longer works for us, to go [to the newspaper] ... I don’t know how it got there but it set the tone for [Tuesday's] meeting," said DeVellis. ... "For any board member to go to the Reporter for his or her specific case to be made before it comes to the meeting, I apologize for that. I didn’t want to set the tone this way and we are already starting off on a bad foot."
The comments made by DeRensis that DeVellis is referring to was published in the Reporter's Sept. 13 article, "_Former Town Counsel Back Brue, Coppola_." In the article, DeRensis says while The Kraft Group is not under any legal obligation to pay the town $7.5 million for the construction of a water and sewer treatment facility that never passed town meeting, the company should honor its "social contract" and "moral obligation" to the town regarding the funds.
Town documents from the 2007 MOU for Patriot Place show no mention of "social contracts" or "moral obligations" as the agreement clearly states the town had five years to get the construction of a wastewater treatment facility passed at town meeting and submit an approvals notice to The Kraft Group.
The five-year window closed on May 14, 2012 without the town approving the construction of a wastewater treatment facility, effectively ending the agreement with The Kraft Group.
But DeRensis – in an e-mail to selectmen Lorraine Brue and Virginia Coppola – continued to support their position that The Kraft Group still owes the town in mitigation from the 2007 negotiation of Patriot Place.
DeVellis said while he would not agree or disagree with DeRensis' comments publicly, he felt the situation had potential to become a real "mess" and asked his fellow board members to refrain from stating their own cases to the media.
"I’m hoping that moving on the board of selectmen doesn’t find it necessary to go every week and state their case separate from the table," DeVellis said. "I’m hoping [The Kraft Group] doesn’t start doing the same thing."
As for how DeRensis' comments went from an e-mail to Brue and Coppola to being published in last week's Foxboro Reporter … Brue explained to the board what happened.
"Attorney DeRensis did not bring that to the paper, I brought that to the paper," Brue said.
DeVellis underlined the point he wanted to make to board members.
"I thought we had an agreement that we weren’t going to do that," DeVellis said. "What I’m asking is if you did it, it’s done, please don’t do it again. You are all elected and can do what you want to do but if I’m chairman and it makes it difficult to go get progress for the town or progress for one of our businesses it’s going to become an issue."
Brue acknowledged DeVellis' point.
"I understand and I agree," Brue said. "I think it really applies to both sides of the occasion for this particular situation. I do understand what you are saying."
Brue is referring to the open letter The Kraft Group sent to local media addressed to Foxborough residents, which asked for support for negotiations with the town to take place if they would like to see future development at Patriot Place and along Route 1.
"In response [to DeRensis' comments], I know [The Kraft Group] had an open letter to the people telling them to contact their representatives because what [The Kraft Group is] doing is good and I get it," DeVellis said. "It’s a private company and [The Kraft Group] can do that but if we are going to start going back and forth with the press to try and influence what’s happening at this table, it’s not going to end well."
DeVellis added as chairman, he would like to keep the process "civil" and asked both the selectmen and The Kraft Group not to "go out of bounds and try to make your case independently from the table."
Selectman Lynda Walsh supported DeVellis' point in addressing DeRensis' comments.
"I don’t want to see anymore in the paper about this," said Walsh. "To go out and use the media to get your point across ... everything runs at this table. Whether it’s negotiating done at this table, or it’s an open session, it belongs here."
Dan Murphy of The Kraft Group was appreciative of DeVellis taking the time to address the issue.
"I appreciate the comments," Murphy said. "We'd like to move forward and see if we can begin negotiating with the town."
Town officials agreed to enter negotiations with The Kraft Group following a 52-minute discussion regarding potential development of Patriot Place and Route 1.
"There’s a lot of potential for some good stuff to happen on Phase II [of Patriot Place development]," DeVellis said. "I think it’s our duty to [discuss] all of that and if it’s good for the town – and certainly good for [The Kraft Group] then we will help as quickly as we can to make it as easy as possible."
Selectmen unanimously elected the following to represent the town in negotiations with The Kraft Group.
- Mark Sullivan, Board of Selectmen vice chair
- Kevin Paicos, Foxborough Town Manager
- Richard Gelerman, Foxborough Town Counsel