It is not exactly an independent and unbiased source, but the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority has found a supporter in its legal battle to legitimize the 2009 firings of the agency's executive director and chief financial officer. The court recently approved the request of the City Solicitors and Town Counsel Association to submit an amicus brief in support of the ARA's case. ARA Chair Judy Robbins announced the development at an ARA board meeting earlier this month.
The CSTCA is made up of attorneys who represent cities and towns, including City Solicitor Robert Mangiaratti. Robbins said the organization's board voted 11-1 to write the amicus brief.
The ARA fired Michael Milanoski as executive director and Meg Ross as chief financial officer and two others in 2009 supposedly due to lack of funds. Milanoski and Ross challenged their firings, and the state Civil Service Commission ruled in their favor in 2011. Judge Thomas F. McGuire Jr. affirmed the ruling last summer. The ARA board voted to appeal the judge's ruling in July, despite skepticism from several city councilors about this being an expensive battle that could not be won.
Unless the ARA, under the legal representation of Mangiaratti, can win in the higher levels of the court system, the agency must reinstate Milanoski and Moss, and give them back pay plus benefits and interest. Their attorney estimated the amount owed was at least $600,000 last summer, and the number grows every day. Since the ARA has little to no money, this means the city would likely be on the hook for the cost.
Among the reasons the civil service commission and the judge gave for ordering the rehiring of the employees was they determined the money to pay Milanoski and Moss was available. Mangiaratti has said that a municipal government has the right to determine how it should spend its money. Robbins echoed this sentiment at the ARA board meeting earlier this month.
"Theoretically, policy-making boards have a right to decide how to spend their money," she said.
Robbins continued, "It's just really interesting this thought that maybe communities could be forced to use their stabilization fund before they lay off civil service employees. Nobody's ever gone that far before. New law should not really be made at the civil service hearing commission level."
Board member Richard Correia added, "The interesting point is had we spent the money on salaries, we wouldn't have accomplished what we have."
The ARA has been operating without employees since the 2009 firings.
Attorney Colin Confoey, who represents Milanoski and Moss, declined to comment for this story.