Although the Ipswich Chronicle seems to have lost interest in the story, there has been a lot of action on the sale of Little Neck over the last few weeks. The new Feoffees, having been stripped by the Probate Court of the powers granted to them under the settlement agreement, have still been working tirelessly to be ready for the “post-sale” transition. Their meetings have made it abundantly clear how – contrary to the opinion of many past and present School Committee members – the quality of the governance of the Trust matters. Had these individuals (or others like them) been installed as Feoffees years ago, our community would not be on the brink of breaking the oldest charitable trust in the United States.
But that is hindsight. The current reality is that condominium unit closings are happening in escrow on a daily basis, apparently at the rate of about 10 per day. It is expected that on or about August 10th, the old Feoffees will be in position to record the master deed and then immediately thereafter record the unit deeds that are currently in escrow. At that point, Little Neck will be legally “sold” and the new Feoffees will take over governance of the Trust.
Although the closing has been slightly delayed, the fact of it happening has been anticipated since March. We have consistently said since then that in order to be successful, we are going to have to convince the Supreme Judicial Court to rescind title and unwind the transaction. It was never going to be easy, but the “fact” of the sale will not make it any harder than we knew it would be before the historic Town Meeting vote. We are convinced that the law is on our side. We are committed to seeing it through until there is a ruling not simply on our “standing”, but on the law by which this Trust is being defaced.
With this notice, the Probate Court action is over and the clock (finally) starts ticking on our appeal.
Probate – Court – 120727 – Notice of Assembly of Record
This is a response from the Feoffees to our most recent status report asking for a stay until August 24th to allow time for the Probate Court record to be assembled. The stay was granted. The Court’s response to the Feoffees was a rather terse “To the extent that appellees disagree with any statements made by appellants in a status report, they may address those in their brief.”
Appeals – Feoffees – 120726 – Response to Status Report
There will be a joint meeting of the would-be New Feoffees and the School Committee on Junly 17th at 7:30PM in Conference Room A in the Town Hall.
We have not seen anything in writing, but have heard that Judge Sahagian in the Probate Court allowed the Feoffees motion to modify the settlement agreement to allow the sale to proceed before the New Feoffees take control of the Trust. This after the other party to the settlement agreement (the School Committee) had voted to oppose the modification by a 6-1 vote and the judge had openly wondered on what procedural grounds she should even be hearing the motion. There need be no further evidence as to the lengths the Feoffees, Probate Court and Attorney General will go to protect their carefully crafted breaking of William Paine’s will.
This, of course, is why we filed for a stay of the judgment in the first place, so there is nothing particularly surprising in any of this. The stay was denied well before the Town Meeting vote to support the interveners, so while the Feoffees and many cottage owners will again portray this as some kind of watershed event, the fact is that it is nothing more than we have planned for all along. If everyone involved in this transaction is willing to accept the risk that the Supreme Judicial Court may nullify the transaction, that is certainly their choice to make. It will have little bearing on our resolve to get a court of law to make a ruling on the legality of the sale.
There will be a meeting of the would-be New Feoffees on July 5th at 7:30PM in the Council on Aging Cafeteria at the Town Hall.
There was a hearing today on this motion by the Feoffees. In the hearing, we discovered that there were some changes to the plan (as outlined in Exhibit A) right up to the last minute for which we do not have details. Some of these were intended to address the concerns of the newly chosen lawyer for the New Feoffees.
Attorney Sheehan went first for the Feoffees and stated their opinion that this plan was allowable within the terms of the Agreement for Judgment and that a major reason they were coming before the court at all was for “transparency”.
Judge Sahagian wondered aloud how to treat this motion from a procedural perspective since she thought that the case was over and she had already signed the Agreement for Judgment.
Attorney Perry then spoke for the School Committee who had voted 6-1 the night before the hearing to oppose the motion. His main point seemed to be that the order of events laid out in the Agreement for Judgment (whereby the New Feoffees would take control and handle all the unit closings) was significant to the School Committee who did “not trust the Feoffees”.
A ruling was promised quickly, likely by week end.