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Framingham complainant calls his arrest a political ploy Saturday, August 23, 2003
Jenn Abelson Boston Globe
FRAMINGHAM -- Released yesterday after spending a night in jail, Seth Levenson called his arrest moments before a selectmen meeting Thursday night a politically orchestrated effort to keep him from publicly discussing his state ethics complaint against Town Manager George P. King Jr., whom Levenson has accused of playing strip poker with a subordinate.

The arrest occurred minutes after Levenson arrived at Memorial Building and signed up to speak to the Board of Selectmen about his Ethics Commission accusations against King.  Levenson was arrested for allegedly violating a temporary restraining order taken out the day before by his estranged wife, Allison Potter.

Levenson was led away in handcuffs just before the meeting, where Potter was working as a part-time stenographer.  He said he didn't know about the restraining order, and was served with the papers after arriving at Town Hall.

The ethics complaint accuses the town manager of playing strip poker last September at the Potter family home in Holliston.  Levenson, Alison Potter, Karen Potter, two of Karen's friends, and King were socializing at the house at the time. At some point a game of strip poker was suggested, the complaint said.

Levenson said yesterday that he refused to let his wife participate, and went into another room.

When he returned to the room where the game was being played, he saw Karen Potter naked and King still wearing a T-shirt and slacks, the complaint said.

The complaint notes that Karen Potter was subsequently promoted, and Allison was fired.  She later took a part-time stenography job with the town.

King has called the allegations "absolutely absurd and inflammatory," and Karen Potter has said they were "very exaggerated or totally untrue. " Allison Potter described the complaint as "blatant lies that are intended to hurt me and anyone associated with me".  After a hearing on the restraining order charge at Framingham District Court yesterday, Levenson's lawyer called the sequence of events that led to his client's arrest highly suspect.

"This restraining order is nothing but a naked attempt by the Town of Framingham to keep him from speaking about these allegations of ethical violations in an open forum," John L. Daly Jr. said at yesterday's arraignment.

Framingham Police Chief Steve Carl, who reports to King, led Levenson away from Town Hall in handcuffs Thursday night.

King declined to comment yesterday on Levenson's contention that the town manager tried to silence him, and said that he did not ask Allison Potter to file the restraining order.  King also declined to comment on whether he knew that Potter had taken out the order the day before the meeting.

Levenson had been quoted in the Globe eight days earlier saying that he planned to attend the meeting and speak about his ethics allegations during the public comment period.

King also said he did not ask Carl to escort Levenson to the police station.  "I had no idea he was even going to be arrested," King said.  Earlier this week, King's lawyer sent Levenson a letter threatening to sue him for defamation.

Levenson was taken to the police station after refusing to leave the Town Hall.

Allison Potter declined to comment on her husband's arrest.

The couple separated in January, and Levenson lives with their two young daughters in Woonsocket, R.I.

The police chief could not be reached for comment, but Lieutenant Louis Griffith said that restraining orders are usually served in the town where the subject lives.  A spokesman for the Woonsocket Police Department said he was unaware of any restraining order involving Levenson.

Carl, who already had business at the Town Hall, knew about the restraining order and Levenson's plans to attend the selectmen's meeting, so Carl decided to bring the order with him, Griffith said.

"He's a very active chief," Griffith said.

Levenson has also accused King of holding push-up contests in his office with the Potter sisters.

Carl said in a previous interview that he participated about a year ago in one push-up contest with Karen Potter in the Town Hall, but he was unaware of other competitions.

According to court records, Allison Potter, 30, said in her request for a temporary restraining order that "lately, [Levenson] has been making slanderous accusations that are getting press because I used to hold a public position and still do on a minimal basis.  He has begun to make vague statements, implying a threat to not only myself but the physical safety of my family, with whom I now live in Holliston."

Levenson has denied making threats and said outside the courtroom yesterday that he plans to fight the restraining order.  The arrest, he said, "was a conspiracy of Allison, George, and others to silence me.  They took away my civil rights."

In his complaint filed with the state Ethics Commission, Levenson, 46, said he personally witnessed the strip poker game at his mother-in-law's house while his two daughters were sleeping upstairs.  He said he sat in an adjoining kitchen while Karen Potter, 27, her two friends, and King, 43, played the game.

King has been separated from his wife since last year.

At Thursday's meeting, King did not have to face public questions about the allegations when the Board of Selectmen refused to allow any discussion of the topic, even cutting off one Town Meeting member.  The selectmen said state open meeting laws protected certain rights of town employees.  After holding a nonpublic executive session, four of the five selectmen voted to not conduct their own investigation of the allegations.  Ginger Esty, vice chairwoman and a frequent critic of King, said she abstained because of statements made by the town manager in executive session, but she declined to comment further.

A statement released yesterday by assistant town manager Mark Purple said, "The Board of Selectmen continues to hold the town manager in the highest regard and remains confident in his ability to continue to successfully manage the town."

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