REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Lawsuit vs. O’Toole will proceed, says judge, who calls the case weak

A Suffolk Superior Court judge last week allowed for the lawsuit against District 3 candidate John O’Toole to move forward. While the judge, Mitchell Kaplan, rejected O’Toole’s request for the case to be dismissed, he also called the case weak.

The suit is centered on an alleged $69,000 loan that the plaintiffs, Paul Connolly and his wife April, claim O’Toole has refused to pay back. O’Toole maintains that no such loan was ever made.

O’Toole appeared in court last Thursday with his attorney, Stuart Schrier. Attorneys Leonard Milligan and John Bita appeared on behalf of the Connollys, who did not attend the afternoon hearing.

With the motion to dismiss dispensed with, O’Toole and Schrier were left with ten days to respond formally to the suit, which names O’Toole as one of three original principal investors in Connolly’s company, Optimum Mortgage Corporation, and asserts that O’Toole requested the loan in part because the third investor wanted out of the business, which required a separation agreement and a payout to him from the other two.

The business has since changed its name and moved its office to Braintree. Connolly, who backed unsuccessful District 3 candidate Craig Galvin in the September preliminary, is its sole officer.

In court, Schrier called the Connollys’ complaint and allegation of a breach of contract “flawed” and bereft of a number of crucial details. There was no contract, and O’Toole had no obligation to give more money after plowing his entire life’s savings into the business, he said.

“He never got any shares of stock,” Schrier said outside the courtroom. “He’s never seen them.”

Schrier also argued that loans carry payment terms and interest rates. “Where are the terms [of this loan]?” Schrier asked, noting that the judge had called the case shaky. Judge Kaplan said he was sympathetic to several of Schrier’s arguments, adding that the case “could be resolved relatively quickly.”

But the attorneys for the Connollys say there is “plenty of evidence” of the loan, including e-mail chains and checks written to the business by O’Toole.

O’Toole’s role in the business is also in dispute. The Connollys argue that O’Toole was one of the mortgage brokerage’s three original principal investors, and that he contributed $188,100 to the business, while Connolly contributed $267,261. O’Toole, the suit states, was regarded as the human resources director and “signatory authority” with the company’s Citizens Bank operating account and notes that while he did not receive a salary, he was given a car allowance.

Schrier said O’Toole mainly attended to renovations of the business’s Dorchester office and was “minimally paid.”

Endorsement Corner: O’Toole picks up backing of two unions and Mickey Roache

Suffolk County Register of Deeds Francis “Mickey” Roache said this week that he’s backing O’Toole in the District 3 battle. “John exemplifies genuine loyalty to this community. He is a working guy that understands the issues families face in this difficult economy,” Roache said in a statement. “John has a deep respect for our seniors and has personally fought to keep seniors in their homes. John is the best and right choice to represent Dorchester. He will continue to make this neighborhood proud and I am honored to endorse someone who has walked-the-walk on behalf of our community for so many years.”

Roache was the Boston police commissioner during Mayor Ray Flynn’s reign and later a city councillor at-large who frequently topped the ticket and did particularly well in Dorchester. He served on the Council between 1996 and 2002.

O’Toole also picked up the endorsement of Maura Doyle, Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court in Suffolk County.

In her statement, Doyle, referring to O’Toole tenure as head of the Cedar Grove Civic Association, said, “As Civic President, he made our streets safer by working with Boston Police and local businesses to increase surveillance which directly resulted in the reduction of drug deals in our community.”

Doyle, who lives in the St. Brendan’s area, served as assistant clerk for four years before getting appointed to the post in 1996. She later ran for the office and was elected to a full term. She is considered the first woman elected to a Suffolk County-wide office.

O’Toole’s campaign also announced the endorsements of two unions: the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 4 and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 4.

Ward 16’s Democratic committee also backed O’Toole in a vote on Tuesday night at the McKeon Post. O’Toole, a member of the committee, won the endorsement with a 19-4 vote.

He and Frank Baker face off in the final election on Nov. 8.

The ward committee also endorsed the four incumbents running for re-election for City Council At-Large: Ayanna Pressley (21 votes), Stephen Murphy (20 votes), John Connolly (19 votes), and Felix Arroyo (18 votes).

Two-thirds support was needed to gain an endorsement. The other three candidates – Michael Flaherty, Will Dorcena and Sean Ryan – also appeared before the committee but did not garner enough votes.

Upcoming forums include DotOUT and civic groups at Murphy School

Dorchester voters later this month have a chance to see municipal candidates up close before the Nov. 8 election. DotOUT, an influential civic group that supports gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual rights, will hold its City Council At-large forum this Sunday, Oct. 23, at 3:30 p.m. at the Savin Bar and Kitchen. Bay Windows publisher Sue O’Connell will be the moderator.

The group, which endorsed Craig Galvin in the Sept. preliminary, is not expected to re-open its endorsement process for District 3, and will largely focus on the at-large race.

Three days later, civic groups and business associations in District 3 will team up to offer a forum for district and at-large candidates. Chris Lovett, a longtime reporter and anchor at Neighborhood Network News, will moderate.

The session is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Richard Murphy School on Worrell Street.

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