Thursday, April 14, 2011

Joe Angelo's License Hearing Raises Issues Of Rascism, Unfair Treatment

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—The cancellation of a Brockton License Commission hearing to discuss if Joe Angelo’s Café would be punished for a string of violence near or in the Downtown pub may have averted a secondary situation between a Brockton Police officer and the former owner of Progression’s Lounge.
Officer Scott Uhlman, the city’s paid code enforcement officer, said he has been issued as an individual and not a police officer, a 10-day harassment prevention order that requires former Progression’s Lounge owner Jeffrey Summers to stay at least 100 yards away from Uhlman at all times.
In Uhlman’s opinion, that would include a public hearing he is required to attend because he was a witness expected to testify at tonight’s now rescheduled License Commission hearing.
“If I see him I’ll ask him to leave or have him removed,” Uhlman said. “He has no business being there. I do,” Uhlman said.
Uhlman said because of posts Summers has written as the alias TwoNations on the issues forum website, he has reasons to feel he is being intimidated, threatened and bullied.
“This guy frightens me,” Uhlman said. Because of issues surrounding comments about Uhlman and code enforcement on the forum, Chief William Conlon has prohibited Uhlman from commenting or defending code enforcement activities on the website.
Uhlman said the harassment prevention order was issued by Brockton District Court. The harassment order was obtained by Uhlman under a year-old revamp of the state's abuse prevention law, which until last year made it difficult for a person to get a restraining order against someone who is not a family member or involved with the person in a sexual or other relationship.
The new harassment prevention order can now be gained to prevent stalking and other forms of harassment by those who are strangers or acquaintances to the victim. Summers, the former owner of Progression’s Lounge at 23 Montello Street which since has closed, has filed a Civil Rights lawsuit in November 2009 that claims city officials, such as former Mayor James Harrington, police officers including Uhlman and members of the License Commission, including current members Joseph Kelley and Paul Sullivan, treat African-American and other minority business owners unfairly and much differently from white-owned businesses—especially bars like Joe Angelo’s which is white-owned and well-connected politically.
The suit asks for a $250,000 demand. Summers was expected at the Joe Angelo’s hearing, but the hearing has been postponed to April 27.
Summers’ lawyer Elizabeth “Betsy” Clague said Summers was served with the harassment order Wednesday night at about 9 p.m. at his home.
“This is outrageous,” Clague said. “This is an outrageous, colossal abuse of power. I’m outraged at the continuing targeting of Mr. Summers,” she said.
Clague said since tonight’s License Commission hearing has been postponed she will not be able to test Uhlman’s opinion that Summers has no business at the public License Commission hearing. (Clarification: Clague contacted to say she would advise Summers to abide by the harassment order and not attend the rescheduled April 14 License Commission meeting. Clague said until the temporary harassment order was served to Summers at 9 p.m. the night before the scheduled hearing Summers had every right to attend the hearing)
When Uhlman and Summers will meet is the April 22 hearing in Brockton District Court when a judge must decide if the 10-day temporary restraining order should be extended for one year.
“We will be there with bells on,” Clague said. Clague questioned why Uhlman—a defendant in the Civil Rights case--did not have the city lawyer handling the Civil Rights case intercede if he felt threatened and harassed or bullied by Summers.
She questioned why Uhlman would not have contacted U.S. District Court officials to begin a conference about his issues with Summers instead of going to a local court where he is well-known as a police and code enforcement officer.
Clague then answered her own question. “He is doing this to prevent Mr. Summers from attending the hearing,” Clague said.
“He went to a local court where they are unfamiliar with the federal case. He has gone to a court and either lied or has given that court the complete wrong impression,” she said.
Summers has characterized city officials and city boards as being racist since his Progression’s dance club had its hours rolled back in July 2008 when a man was shot and killed after leaving the Main Street club.
Progression’s had its hours returned to the 2 a.m. closing time, but since has closed. Summers’ Civil Rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston was filed by Clague and claims city officials’ treatment and punishment of African-American and other minority businesses is “markedly different and discrepant from actions taken with regard to the same kinds of alleged violations in similarly situated establishments owned and patronized by Caucasians who are not ethnic minorities.”
It names numerous officials: Former License Commissioner James Holmgren and Robert Malley—now the city’s parking authority director— and Police Lt. John Crowley.
The suit claims Summers was not properly notified of hearings about his license and that Summers’ attempts for information about his license and the hearings procedure were systematically stifled.
The suit claims the defendants “persisted in a campaign against Summers to coerce, punish and intimidate Summers in their attempt to stifle his inquiries and requests to be heard.
In his suit, Summers claims officials, including former Mayor Harrington harassed Summers so a developer, Economic Development Finance Corp., could develop a block of land on Montello—including Progression’s Lounge.
Uhlman said he denies any allegations in the suit as do all other city officials, according to court documents.
Uhlman points to posts that indicate Summers could be violent and intimidating.
On one of Summers’ posts on, Summers writes he hates Joe Angelo’s. Another states Summers has a gun and has befriended thugs to protect his club. Others cite numerous examples of the racism and favoritism that Summers states is pervasive throughout city departments.
Uhlman said Summers has posted comments on that state Uhlman and other members of the code enforcement department are “on the take” and are being equated to Joseph Vasapollo Jr., the former city building superintendent who was convicted of federal extortion and bribery charges more than a year ago.
“I am not a racist and I am not on the take,” Uhlman said.
“He talks about how he has befriended thugs and owns a gun---he frightens me,” he said. Uhlman said he received advice about obtaining the restraining order through the police union..(Correction: Uhlman received advice from internal affairs and the police union--)

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