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LGC trial gets off to slow start

Last modified: 10/5/2011 12:00:00 AM
It was a bit like syllabus day at the Bureau of Securities Regulation, as attorneys settled in for a months-long case accusing the Local Government Center of improperly using $100 million.

Yesterday was the first public hearing on allegations that the nonprofit violated state law by failing to return surplus money from pooled risk programs that provide cities and towns with health and property insurance. The organization - which provides municipalities across the state with services including health insurance, legal services and lobbying - instead used the money to subsidize a workers compensation pool, according to a state investigation report in August.

Hearing officer Don Mitchell, who was once mayor of Dover and previously served as executive director of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board, told a cramped hearing room at 25 Capitol St. - packed with lawyers representing the state, LGC, intervening unions and individuals named in the suit - that he is confident he can hear the case without bias.

"I have taken the time to reflect on that and still I reached the conclusion that there's no reason that I cannot impartially do this," he said. "I have full appreciation for the severity and seriousness of these hearings."

Mitchell said he intends to move the proceedings along at "an uncomfortable pace for some of you."

Even still, he cautioned that anyone planning on an excursion as far out as May should probably let him know.

"Some of you may have already scheduled your vacations for spring 2012," he said. "I'd hate to bump into that."

The next big step in the case is to determine whether the unions representing the state's firefighters and police officers will be allowed to intervene.

The firefighters union notes that it filed a lawsuit in March 2010 arguing misuse of funds by the LGC that led to the state's August report.

Both unions argue they are interested parties in the case, since they represent thousands of municipal employees affected by the LGC's practices.

The LGC has objected to the unions being a part of the case, arguing that their constituents are already sufficiently represented by the state.

LGC attorney William Saturley said if the unions are allowed to join the case, that could open the door to lots of other potential intervenors affected by the case.

"You don't know where the hearing officer would draw the line," he said.

Oral arguments on the unions' intervention is scheduled for Oct. 18 at 9 a.m.

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or mspolar@cmonitor.com.)


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