Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Former Progression's Lounge Owner To Stop Negative Posts

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—A Brockton District Court judge has rejected a Brockton police officer’s unusual request to extend for a year an emergency harassment order against the former owner of Progression’s Lounge because of statements made on a local comment forum—InBrockton.com.
Judge Michael Pomarole Friday morning April 22 ruled against extending the restraining order requested by Officer Scott Uhlman, the city’s paid code enforcement officer, against Jeffrey D. Summers, the former owner of Progression’s Lounge on Montello Street.
During the hearing Summers, a Malden resident, promised under oath he would not write about Uhlman on the forum any longer—a promise made when Pomarole continually asked Summers what his intention was for writing about Uhlman on the forum.
“He runs close to some court finding there is malicious and willful conduct aimed at intimidation—it’s in the ballpark,” Pomarole told Summers’ lawyer, Elizabeth “Betsy” Clague.
Pomarole said from Uhlman’s testimony, Summers’ intent might be out of bitterness and not out of a civic duty to inform residents of problems he sees in the community.
“He is going to ensure this court he is not going to post anything about this person?” Pomarole asked.
Summers agreed he would not write about Uhlman on the forum any longer.
Friday’s hearing was held because Uhlman requested a harassment order under a new law that allows strangers protection from strangers, such as neighbors threatening property damage or teenagers from cyberbullying.
Uhlman has said because of comments made by Summers on the InBrockton.com forum he has reason to fear Summers, including Summers’ numerous posts claiming racist decisions by city officials regarding license hearings and punishment and suggestions code enforcement officials like Uhlman are corrupt.
Uhlman is one of several city officials named in a Civil Rights lawsuit filed by Summers in November 2009 after Progression’s Lounge’s closing hours were rolled back one hour following a murder outside the bar.
Uhlman said he has lost sleep over the matter and has suffered physically from the comments because although he is prohibited from commenting on the forum himself he hears what is being written from family, friends and colleagues.
At the opening of the hearing at about 10 a.m. Friday, Pomarole questioned Uhlman’s use of Officer Scott Uhlman when stating his name under oath.
“Your name isn’t officer--it’s Scott Uhlman,” Pomarole said. “Your occupation is irrelevant. Everyone has an occupation, but it is not part of your name,” he said.
Uhlman apologized and explained he had gone before a Brockton District Court judge after applying for the 10-day harassment order April 8. Pomarole had asked Uhlman if the 10-day emergency order had been issued over the telephone.
Uhlman, who said after the hearing he was uncomfortable being the victim and did not present his best case, testified that Summers has written several posts in March and April accusing Uhlman of “trumping up” charges against certain liquor establishments, that there is a grand scheme to only target certain businesses and that Summers “rubbed it in my face” about the harassment order and is “maligning” him.
Summers, Uhlman said, also posted comments that Uhlman is emotionally and physically unstable.
Pomarole continually asked Uhlman how had the comments harassed him.
Uhlman said he has been prohibited by Police Chief William Conlon from defending himself and code enforcement activities on the InBrockton.com forum.
Uhlman said he has defended himself against Summers’ comments through the harassment order and an article in BrocktonPost.com.
Pomarole questioned Uhlman as to why he felt it necessary to go to the media. Uhlman said he wanted to defend himself against the charges in a public forum.
Uhlman told Pomarole he took out the harassment order as a police officer and not as an individual. However during an extensive conversation with BrocktonPost.com for an article before the hearing Uhlman continually said he took out the harassment order as an individual and not as a police officer—a much different point than he made under oath to Pomarole.
BrocktonPost.com stands by its reporting that Uhlman requested the harassment order as an individual. We also stand by our reporting that Uhlman sought advice about applying for the harassment order not only from his police union but also Brockton Police’s internal affairs department.
“It’s annoying and alarming,” Uhlman said of Summers' posts. “He’s making up accusations that are affecting my credibility,” he said, noting Summers has posted that he has a gun license.
Summers said the gun license postings were not about Uhlman but a different stream of conversation initiated by other posters. Summers said he does have a gun license and those posts had nothing to do with Uhlman.
Summers said he posts on InBrockton.com to get out factual information about city code enforcement activities and he rarely mentioned Uhlman by name.
“I’m a law abiding citizen—I have never been arrested. For him to take that and say he is frightened…” Summers said, but was cut off by Pomarole.
“Why are you posting things of a negative nature? What is your purpose? Are you doing it out of bitterness,” Pomarole asked.
Summers replied, “He put me out of business,” and added he wanted to get factual information out to the public about what happened to his business and how he believed he was treated unfairly by the city.
“Why are you doing it all? Why not enjoy life whether you believe it’s accurate, why are you saying negative things,” Pomarole asked.
“The driving reason…is to get factual information out,” Summers said.
Pomarole continued speaking with Summers' lawyer Clague.
“It seems a little sad to me…why doesn’t he just leave it alone. He’s already got a Civil Rights case against the city…isn’t he embarrassed…he’s putting salt in the wound,” Pomarole said.
At one point Pomarole asked Clague at what stage does the Civil Rights case stand.
Clague said witnesses are in the process of being deposed, including Uhlman, who is expected to appear at Clague’s office for questions about the Civil Rights case, Wednesday, April 27.
Pomarole asked Stephen C. Pfaff, the city’s lawyer in the Civil Rights suit who represented Uhlman Friday, if a federal judge would issue a gag order against Summers from posting comments about Uhlman because of the Civil Rights case.
Pfaff said from his reading of Summers’ posts and the federal standard for a gag-rule, he did not think a federal judge would issue an order preventing Summers from commenting on InBrockton.com.
Uhlman said he did not go to the federal court for a gag order because he would not know how to do it and did not know the process.
After the hearing Summers reiterated he would not post any more comments about Uhlman. His lawyer Clague said the court made the right decision because Summers’ comments did not meet the willful and malicious standard for a harassment order.
Uhlman, after the hearing said he hopes Summers sticks to his word because all he wants is the comments to stop.
“It’s over. It’s over. Let’s hope he is a man of his word,” Uhlman said.

1 comment:

  1. I don't understand, I have read InBrockton.com and I have seen post that Uhlman have written about other people's businesses and how he gets them shut down, and let's face it most of the businesses are minority owned, yet Jeff Summers calls him out and he files bullying charges....WOW