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Arrest made at Framingham meeting
Ethics complaint filer taken away
Friday, August 22, 2003
Jenn Abelson The Boston Globe
FRAMINGHAM -- Seth Levenson, the man planning to go before the Framingham Board of Selectmen last night to defend his allegations in a state ethics complaint that Town Manager George P. King Jr. played strip poker and held push-up contests with his aides, was arrested shortly before the meeting for allegedly violating a restraining order.

It wasn't immediately clear last night who took out the restraining order, but Framingham police Lieutenant Paul Farley said, "It had to be his wife," referring to Allison Potter, a former assistant to King who, according to Levenson's complaint, took part in King's "unethical actions."  Potter, who was taking minutes last night for the selectmen, and Levenson are separated.

Framingham Police Chief Steve Carl could be seen escorting Levenson through the parking lot of the Memorial Building, Framingham's town hall, in handcuffs prior to the selectmen's 7 p.m. meeting.

King said last night that he didn't know anything about the arrest.  Potter declined to comment.

Days after threatening to sue Levenson for defamation, King avoided public scrutiny last night of Levenson's recent complaint to the state Ethics Commission when the Board of Selectmen refused to allow any discussion of it.

Residents and Town Meeting members had also wanted last night to address Levenson's accusations that King's behavior violates state ethics laws governing conduct by public officials.

Levenson said last week that he planned to attend the meeting to bring up with selectmen his allegations, which are disputed by King and the two assistants named in the complaint, Allison Potter and her sister, Karen Potter.

"I'm sure George wants all this to go away, and I'm sure George wants me to go away, too," Levenson said in a prepared statement he planned to read at last night's meeting.  "And it can go away.  All George needs to do is to take responsibility for his actions.  He needs to admit his mistakes. And then George needs to resign."

Before the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, the Board of Selectmen's chairman, Charles Sisitsky, said the board would not entertain public discussion of the allegations, citing the state's Open Meeting Law that he said requires governmental bodies to go into executive session to consider complaints or charges brought against a town official.

"I know there's a lot of interest . . . but I have to balance the obligation to protect the rights of town employees," he said.

That decision angered some residents, who felt that the issue should be given public attention.

"This is absolutely ridiculous," Town Meeting member Dan Gittelsohn said after he was cut off by Sisitsky while trying to speak about King's annual employment review, which was also on the agenda last night.

King, prior to last night's meeting, declined to comment on how the selectmen are handling the ethics complaint.

In part of an e-mailed statement to the Globe two weeks ago, King said: "These are absolutely absurd and inflammatory personal allegations.  From what I understand, the motivation and credibility of the person making the allegations is highly suspect.  This kind of personal and unsubstantiated attack from a person with nothing to lose is what deters most people from participating in government."

In his complaint, Levenson said that he personally witnessed the strip poker game last September that "culminated in the complete disrobing of Ms. Karen Potter.  Mr. King did not attempt to excuse himself from said game or situation."  In addition, he contended that King held ongoing pushup contests in his office and on one occasion awarded Allison POtter a bottle of liquor.

Levenson also alleges in the complaint that King started rumors about his own sexual relationship with Allison Potter.

Levenson, who lives in Woonsocket, R.I., with the couple's two young girls, said he received a letter this week from King's attorney accusing him of making false and defamatory statements against the town manager.  The letter, Levenson said, offered that "if you cease and desist in your malicious campaign against him by ceasing all public comments and statements concerning him, he will forgo legal action against you."

King's attorney, Sheilah F. McCarthy, could not be reached for comment.  King, who officiated the wedding for Levenson and Allison Potter four years ago, would only say that, "the letter speaks for itself".

In the meantime, Monica Visco, the town's assistant director of human resources, began circulating a letter on Wednesday that asked town employees to sign in support of King.  Visco, who said she planned to submit the letter to the Board of Selectman, declined to provide a copy to the Globe or say how many people signed it.

One town employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said, "It's inappropriate to ask those whose livelihood depends on town employment to choose whether or not to sign a petition in support of him."

Several other town employees, who also spoke on condition that they not be named, told the Globe that they were avoiding the Human Resources Department because they did not want to be confronted with the letter.

King said he was not aware that the letter was being circulated and was unsure of its content.

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