Hill Center Signals Aggressive Strategy in Status Hearing Before ABRA – No Progress Made in Mediation
by Larry Janezich
Yesterday, the Alcohol Beverage Review Administration (ABRA) met with Hill Center and protesting neighbors at a Status Hearing to assess progress in the mediation process regarding the operations of the Center. The opposing sides informed ABRA that no agreement had been reached. A full hearing is scheduled for October 5.
At the hearing, the protesting neighbors informed ABRA that the Hill Center attorney had obtained without their consent private emails of the protest group’s participants. The lawyer, Paul Pascal, declared his intent to use these emails in support of Hill Center in the full hearing if the protest continues, declaring the emails no different than the “tweets” issued by Representative Anthony Weiner which ultimately led to the Congressman’s resignation.
According to Pope Barrow, one of the protestors’ negotiators, obtaining and using the private email of others without their consent is a violation of Federal email privacy laws. Barrow challenged their use at the hearing; Pascal responded that ruling on the question of privacy law was beyond the scope of ABRA. The neighbors’ group requested that the Board postpone the October 5 hearing until the matter of obtaining and using private emails by the Hill Center could be investigated by ABRA or other appropriate authorities. The Hill Center opposed granting a stay, and ABRA resolved to take the matter under consideration. ABRA also denied the protestors request for a two week postponement of the hearing in order to allow all protestors to be present.
Following Hill Center’s initial rejection of the neighbors’ requests on July 28th, protesting neighbors made a second, more limited request on Friday, August 4th; this was rejected by the Hill Center as well. With no successful mediation in sight, the ABRA Status Hearing presented the distance between the two sides and, in addition, displayed a level of acrimony and contentiousness not yet seen in the efforts to produce agreement on the operations of the Hill Center affecting nearby neighbors.
Hill Center Foundation President Nicky Cymrot sent the following statement to emmcablog this afternoon; “Hill Center continues to try to address concerns raised by neighbors either through the protest process before ABRA or through our operational procedures. We feel confident that Hill Center will be an asset to our community and that any issues that may arise once Hill Center opens can be quickly and effectively resolved.”