Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Portsmouth PD commission amends inheritance request

Portsmouth PD commission amends inheritance request

Asks judge to pay beneficiaries, except PD and FD

  • By Elizabeth Dinan

    Posted May. 2, 2016 at 12:03 PM
    Updated May 5, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    PORTSMOUTH — A lawyer who helped overturn a fired cop's $2.7 million inheritance claims that Police Commissioner Joe Onosko is costing his clients money and that Onosko should personally pay for those unspecified costs.
    Representing the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Shriner's Hospitals for Children, attorney David Eby petitioned the Strafford County probate court last week for permission to submit an affidavit detailing the costs he claims are due to Onosko's court intervention. Onosko last month filed a motion, on behalf of the Police Commission, asking a judge to invalidate an agreement struck between Eby and the city that would pay Eby half of his $579,000 in fees for work overturning an inheritance to former police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin.
    At the conclusion of a 10-day probate hearing, led by Eby, Judge Gary Cassavechia ruled Goodwin had exerted undue influence over the late Geraldine Webber, while positioning himself to become her largest beneficiary. After bills and small beneficiaries are paid, the city police and fire departments are each one-quarter beneficiaries, while Eby's clients will inherit the remaining half. Eby has been paid for his work by his clients and the city agreed to reimburse him for about half, from the city's inheritance.
    Onosko contends in his motion that the Police Commission, as the governing body of the Police Department, was not consulted about the deal to pay Eby and he's asked the court to grant the commission 30 days to review Eby's bills.
    Eby last week petitioned the court to dismiss Onosko's motions, to issue an order that inheritances from Webber's estate be disbursed and to order that Onosko pay the hospitals' costs for responding to Onosko's motions. Eby argues that the Police Commission has "no standing to assert any motion at all," that a March 15 deadline has passed for responding to the agreement Eby made with City Attorney Robert Sullivan and that Onosko did not properly file with the court as a non lawyer. Eby also wrote that Sullivan assented (agreed) to paying half of Eby's legal fees and the city attorney's approval "is binding on the police and fire departments."
    The dispute calls into question whether city officials or the Police Commission have authority over the Police Department.
    Onosko's court filing, dated April 19, asks that the agreement struck between Sullivan and Eby be invalidated. He wrote that neither the Police Commission nor City Council were "asked to vote on this vast expenditure" and contends that the Police Commission is "an interested party" and has budgetary authority for the Police Department, as authorized by city charter.
    "We state as a matter of fact that none of the elected bodies have reviewed the $579,000 Eby bill or voted to authorize payment and therefore, the Police Commission deserves the right on behalf of the citizenry to do so," Onosko wrote. To the argument that the Police Commission missed a court deadline to take action in the matter, Onosko wrote, "Had the city attorney consulted his clients, the Police Commission, this body would have responded in a timely manner."
    The Police Commission "intends to question, and possibly challenge" some of the charges in Eby's legal bill, Onosko wrote.
    Sullivan filed an objection saying the Police Commission is not an independent governing body of the Portsmouth Police Department. He quoted city charter as saying all city departments, officers and individuals shall operate as one municipal corporation and "the governing body shall be the City Council ... " (sic).
    In response, Portsmouth attorney Paul McEachern, who represents four of Webber's friends and small beneficiaries, filed a memo refuting Sullivan's interpretation of the charter which he quoted as follows, "The policy-making body of the Police Department in the city of Portsmouth shall be a Police Commission."
    A hearing for all of the motions has been scheduled for May 13.
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