Monday, July 8, 2013
Foxboro Needs to Look Inward to Solve Stadium Problem
Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013 12:00 am
The situation between the Foxboro Board of Selectmen and the Kraft Group involving the licensing of events routinely approved for many years at Gillette Stadium has reached the point where it is beyond both serious and ridiculous.
While the full details are known only to those directly involved, the general situation is as follows: The town's insurance company has increased the deductible on each liability claim from $7,500 to $50,000 largely due to a pending class-action lawsuit against the town and its police chief alleging the civil rights of thousands were violated through a detention policy put in place by the chief and carried out under his direction.
Selectmen believe that is an unacceptable financial risk and have thus far refused to license certain events such as Revolution soccer games and concerts by artists such as Taylor Swift. They have asked the Kraft Group to assume the increased financial liability, despite the fact it is not their responsibility or under their control. The Kraft Group has refused, but offered some alternative solutions which have been rejected by selectmen.
In summary: Selectmen are refusing to license something they have regularly approved for many years because their insurance deductibles have been sharply raised. This is primarily due to a detention policy instituted by their police chief. They are asking the licensee to assume financial responsibility for claims arising largely from this detention policy even though they, not the licensee, are responsible for its existence and administration.
The problem of drinking at large venues like Gillette Stadium is serious and difficult. Foxboro and its police chief have worked diligently to solve it. However, there is no indication the problem became appreciably worse recently.
What has changed is the town no longer has insurance coverage it is comfortable with, largely because of this questionable policy of detaining people for allegedly being impaired. Foxboro voters have twice approved a public intoxication bylaw, only to have the state attorney general rule it illegal.
It is understandable selectmen do not want to open taxpayers up to large increases in insurance deductibles. But perhaps they should achieve that by investigating and reviewing the detention policy, as opposed to trying to make the Kraft Group pay the liability costs for it.
Selectmen have sent mixed signals at best that they are truly trying to be reasonable in resolving this problem. They refused to take the advice of their own attorney, who suggested lawyers from all involved parties get together to work out a solution. Chairman Mark Sullivan and Selectmen James DeVellis both said that would just drag things out.
This has been going on for many months. The fear of "dragging it out" has long been realized. If selectmen are going to pay an attorney with taxpayer dollars, they might want to take his advice and/or let him do his job.
If you are wondering why the town doesn't just tell the Kraft Group to get their own security and incur the liability themselves, there are several reasons. Chief among them is that current town bylaws do not allow it.
Another reason is the stadium details provide a lot of money to the town and the police officers who work there. The cost for local and state police alone - paid primarily through the Kraft Group - is staggering. While they no doubt earn their pay, stadium events do put a lot of money in the pockets of a lot of employees. The town also gets a cut of every ticket sold.
Chairman Sullivan actually suggested the Kraft Group "pony up the deductible" for the first event, saying "it doesn't seem like a lot to ask to me." Those comments illustrate the lack of understanding that is a big part of the problem here.
There has been no public threat of legal action by the Kraft Group, but that could change quickly. From a layman's point of view, it is difficult to see how they would not prevail given the circumstances. They have done nothing wrong. It is hard to understand why they should pay for a problem between the town and the town's insurance carrier.
Perhaps Foxboro selectmen should stop flexing their political muscles and start listening to their own attorney. The town is in a bad position here, and the attitude of selectmen is not helping.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.