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Judge denies restraining order request, Target had filed ethics complaint September 4, 2003
Jenn Abelson The Boston Globe
A district court judge declined to extend a restraining order yesterday against Seth Levenson, who was arrested last month minutes before a selectmen's meeting where he planned to discuss his state ethics complaint against Framingham Town Manager George P. King Jr.

Allison Potter, who works as a stenographer for the Framingham Board of Selectmen, secured a temporary restraining order against Levenson, her estranged husband, the day before he wanted to address his allegations that King played strip poker with a subordinate, Karen Potter, and held push-up contests with the two sisters in the town manager's office.

"It was a coincidence," Allison Potter said during her testimony yesterday about the timing of the restraining order, which was served by the chief of police.  "I have bad timing."

Potter could not detail any recent abuse, but recalled an incident in January when Levenson allegedly threw a plate against a wall.  Still, she said, her husband made vague threats and she feared for her physical safety, but not for her children, who live with Levenson in Woonsocket, R.I.

Levenson, who spent the night in jail after he was arrested for violating the temporary restraining order, did not testify during yesterday's hearing.  He declined to comment yesterday, but at his arraignment last month, described his arrest as a politically orchestrated attempt to silence him.

His lawyer, Hank Brennan, said that yesterday's decision by Judge Robert V. Greco of Framingham District Court "reflects the truth."

"I think it's apparent that the intent behind the restraining order was for the sole purpose of trying to preclude him from being heard in this meeting," Brennan said.  "It was clearly an orchestrated attempt to keep him quiet, and Ms. Potter was not the only person involved."

He declined to identify the other individuals, but at last month's arraignment, Levenson said his arrest was "a conspiracy of Allison, George, and others."

King did not return calls yesterday seeking comment, and Karen Potter declined to comment.

According to a copy of the complaint submitted last month to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, Levenson said he witnessed a 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."

Levenson said he prevented his wife from participating in the game, which was allegedly held at her parents' house in Holliston.  In previous interviews, he suggested that this decision may have led to her subsequent layoff and Karen Potter's promotion and $11,000 raise.  Allison Potter later took on part-time work taking minutes for selectmen meetings.  Town officials said the office's reorganization was due to budget cuts.

In the complaint, Levenson also accused King of holding pushup contests in his office, and on one occasion awarded Allison Potter with a bottle of liquor.

The town manager has called Levenson's allegations "absolutely absurd and inflammatory" and sent a letter several days before the Aug. 21 meeting threatening to sue Levenson for defamation if he continued to publicly discuss the accusations.

At the Aug. 21 meeting, the selectmen voted in executive session not to investigate Levenson's claims.

During her testimony yesterday, Allison Potter said she was "mildly" bothered by newspaper articles that reported on Levenson's ethics complaint, but didn't care that he planned to attend the selectmen's meeting because the accusations were already public.

When asked if she and King were very good friends, Potter said, "We were friends.  We never really spent time together socially."  During further questioning, Potter said King was entertained at least one night at her parents' house in Holliston.  According to town records, King also served as justice of the peace at the wedding for Levenson and Potter in 1998.  The couple has been separated since January.

Six days after taking out the restraining order, Potter left numerous messages on Levenson's answering machine, which were played in the courtroom yesterday.  On one message, Potter said, "I love you -- there's no but, either.  That's it. Goodbye."

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