Court motion alleges Cogliano “forged” signatures on documents in federal court case
When WIN Waste Innovations needed evidence to defend itself in a federal lawsuit, it approached Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano last summer for help. WIN asked Cogliano if he could collect signatures from residents who lived near the plant who could testify that they had experienced no odor, dust or other problems related to its trash-to-energy plant on Route 107.
After contacting the residents by telephone whom he believed had no problems with WIN, Cogliano said, he filled out the documents and signed them himself instead of having the residents sign them. Later, an attorney representing WIN asked Cogliano to have each of the residents personally sign the declaration, which said they did not experience any problems at the plant.
But a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Boston last week on behalf of Brenda Sweetland and others involved in a 2021 class action lawsuit against WIN over noxious odors and other quality of life issues seeks to have the declarations obtained by Cogliano excluded as evidence in the case. “Defendant’s hurried effort to patch up its boondoggle at the last hour did nothing to remedy the confusion and misunderstanding that Defendant’s misguided solicitation campaign had wrought,” the motion alleged. “Defendant’s Supplemental Declarations were obtained through misleading, coercive and abusive means, and they should accordingly be excluded.”
A federal judge is expected to rule on the motion and determine whether the signatures obtained by Cogliano can be used as evidence to challenge the claims in the pending court case.
In addition to blocking the admission of the declarations as evidence, the motion also seeks $4,304.25 in out-of-pocket expenses which were needed to discover information on what Cogliano did to obtain the signatures.
“Plaintiff seeks a very limited, narrowly tailored and completely justified sanction against Wheelabrator for its unacceptable conduct in employing a prominent local politician with conflicts of interest who procured forged signatures, that it attempted to produce as evidence,” the motion stated.
In an interview this week with The Saugus Advocate, Cogliano denied any wrongdoing. “I still don’t have a problem with doing this,” Cogliano said. “But if I had to do it over again, I probably would not want to be put in that situation. To me, it all boils down to aggravation I don’t need. But I still don’t think I did anything unethical, and I have no problem with that,” he said. “I didn’t sign anything that I didn’t have permission to sign. And I said I would speak to family and friends. I’m trying to create a partnership and relationship with them [WIN]. This class action lawsuit is a farce.”
But the motion filed in Federal District Court last week alleged that the 19 people who later signed the declarations were not fully informed about the ongoing lawsuit, or that Cogliano was seeking their testimony for use in an ongoing civil lawsuit. “Many of the purported Initial Declarants never authorized Mr. Cogliano to sign their name for them, let alone under penalty of perjury,” the motion claimed.
“For example, when presented with his Initial Declaration for the first time, John Cooper testified that ‘I didn’t authorize anyone to sign anything like this’,” the motion noted.
Craig Serino, a cousin of Saugus Selectman Michael Serino, said he didn’t recall authorizing Cogliano to sign his name to the Initial Declaration.
In a deposition related to the recent court motion, Cogliano branded the Sweetland lawsuit as “bogus.” “I’ve lived there my whole life. And outside of the 70’s, I’ve never had any problems with anything from Wheelabrator,” Cogliano said in his court deposition.
“In the 70’s, we used to get soot in my pool. They’ve installed scrubbers there in the 80’s and I’ve never had a problem, and I own property close by. I own another piece of property very close to Wheelabrator, but I’ve never had an issue with it,” he said.
Cogliano has been lobbying hard for several years to create a special Wheelabrator Subcommittee because he wanted to work with Wheelabrator,” according to court papers.
“For years now, as Co-Chair of the Wheelabrator Subcommittee, Mr. Cogliano has been pushing for a host agreement that would allow the town to benefit financially from the operation of the Wheelabrator Facility,” court documents state. It adds that he sees a Host Community Agreement with WIN Waste bringing in “about a million dollars a year plus.”
“Despite this obvious conflict of interest between Mr. Cogliano’s role as a public representative of Saugus residents and his support of Wheelabrator, and a new Host Community Agreement that will net the town millions in revenue, Wheelabrator solicited Mr. Cogliano to procure declarations that Wheelabrator intends to use in opposition to this lawsuit,” the court motion alleged.
“Jack Walsh, a subcontractor responsible for community outreach for Wheelabrator, approached Mr. Cogliano to ask if he knew anyone who could dispute the claims against Wheelabrator.”
Statement From WIN Waste Innovations
WIN Waste Innovations issued the following statement to The Saugus Advocate:
“In connection with a meritless class action lawsuit, representatives of WIN Waste approached Saugus and Revere residents to confirm there are no odor or dust impacts from our Saugus facility. As part of that process, a representative of WIN Waste asked Mr. Cogliano, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood nearest the facility, to voluntarily ask fellow residents if they had experienced any such impacts, and, if not, would they be willing to provide a statement to that effect.
“When attorneys for WIN learned that Mr. Cogliano, after speaking with residents, had signed some of the declarations for them, we immediately notified the plaintiff’s attorneys. WIN Waste then requested that Mr. Cogliano ask the same residents to personally sign the declarations, which they did, indicating there were no odor or dust impacts.
“We value our relationship with the town and will continue to search for opportunities to have mutually beneficial partnerships. Working with the Landfill Committee and Board of Selectmen, we have advanced the concept of continuing to use our landfill and share the resulting environmental and economic benefits with the Town. We look forward to making the environmental case for the project and engaging in a thorough, transparent and fact-based evaluation by state and local officials.
“The essential work of diverting waste from landfills and creating renewable energy will continue at the Saugus waste-to-energy facility. We hope to continue the use of our adjacent monofill so that we can avoid truck traffic over local roads and continue supporting Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.”
Cogliano’s response to allegations
Cogliano presented the following statement to the newspaper, in response to the court motion and allegations that he forged the signatures on documents in a federal lawsuit.
“As part of the process in defending itself from a proposed class action lawsuit, I was approached by representatives of WIN Waste to see if I could find Saugus residents willing to say they are not and have not been negatively affected by the facility. I then called some friends and neighbors and asked if they had any negative quality of life issues as a result of WIN’s operations. Everyone I spoke with said that they had no negative impact from WIN. I then asked if they would put their names on an affidavit about this; if they said yes I wrote their names down. Later I was asked by the attorney for WIN if I could have each person sign for themselves, so I drove from house to house and each person I spoke with was willing to sign the affidavit. The final papers were then submitted back to the attorney.
“I believe this is an attempt to attack my integrity and my commitment to Saugus. I have been dedicated to my hometown for my entire life, serving on the Selectboard for 14 years, or as an active parent and grandparent also served as a coach in this town for 25 years. There are some in town who would rather tear down a person who they disagree with rather than even trying to work together. For over 46 years, our town has had no relationship with WIN Waste, and we have not received any of the most basic benefits that virtually any other town gets through a host community agreement. 46 years of lost revenue and yet WIN continued its operations under the rules and regulations of the state – that’s millions of lost dollars for an operation that has been continually renewed by the town every year. So now, after we have completed a community driven process to begin the conversation on an HCA, when the town has taken its first steps in getting some benefit from the plant on the Salem Turnpike, this lawsuit pops up and I get personally attacked.
“As to questions about my commitment to the town I have spent my entire life in and serving – I find it offensive. If you have spent any time looking at my work, you will see that I have always put Saugus and its residents first. Those who would say otherwise are pushing the failed agenda of the last 46 plus years to stick their head in the sand and pretend that ignoring WIN Waste will make them go away.
“No one in this town has done more than me to get our fair share out of WIN Waste financially and environmentally….and I will continue to lead the charge for a better Saugus.”