State, mortgage firms settle foreclosure ‘rescue’ case
Massachusetts has reached a settlement with 10 mortgage firms over so-called home foreclosure “rescues” that authorities say were fraudulent.
Attorney General Martha Coakley says a federal bankruptcy court has approved the agreement with the companies that funded or serviced mortgage loans for transactions arranged by Brockton attorney Alec Sohmer.
Coakley alleges Sohmer misled 26 homeowners who faced foreclosure and agreed to transfer ownership of their homes to him. Their hope was that they could later reclaim their properties through refinancing.
Coakley filed a complaint against Sohmer, who sought bankruptcy protection for himself in an ongoing case.
Under the settlement, the firms have agreed to provide $1.8 million in reduced mortgage obligations to owners of the properties.
Inmates sue over lack of bathrooms at Suffolk jail
Nearly 4,000 current and former inmates are suing the Suffolk House of Correction for failing to provide timely access to bathrooms.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton has allowed the class action case to move forward. He ruled that anyone held in Building Four of the jail since August 2003 could be a plaintiff.
The lawsuit was filed in August 2006 by three former inmates. It alleges the jail housed prisoners in cells without toilets or sinks and required them to ask guards for permission to use the bathroom.
The suit says the practice amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. It alleges some prisoners were forced to rely on plastic bags and empty shampoo bottles when they were unable to use the bathroom.
Attempts to reach the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department for comment were unsuccessful.
Judge orders new trial in skycap suit
Eight current and former American Airlines skycaps who were awarded more than $283,000 for tips lost when the airline implemented curbside baggage fees may have to return to court to get the money.
U.S. District Judge William Young ordered a new trial in the lawsuit brought by the skycaps, who were employed by subcontractor, G2 Secure Staff. The ruling does not apply to a ninth skycap that worked directly for the airline.
The skycaps were awarded the money in April after a federal jury determined the airline violated state tips law.
Young said he erred and should have asked the jury to determine whether passengers who paid $2 fees to check in bags curbside expected the money to go to the skycaps.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, the skycaps’ lawyer, said she will ask Young to reconsider his ruling and if he declines, ask for an opinion from the state’s highest court.
American said it was pleased with the decision.
Hundreds of people who work for the food service contractor at Boston’s two main convention centers have gone on strike to protest what they call unfair labor practices.
About 75 unionized employees of Aramark Corp. picketed outside the Hynes Convention Center on Saturday morning, the first day of a three-day strike. More Aramark workers picketed the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
The 350 workers, members of Unite Here Local 26, claim Philadelphia-based Aramark has engaged in a pattern of targeting workers for their union activities, even firing workers engaged in contract negotiations in violation of federal labor laws.
The workers have been without a contract since October.
A spokesman says the union is not asking convention-goers not to cross picket lines, but is asking them to boycott Aramark services.
MWRA proposes rate hikes
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority is recommending an average 4.5 percent rate hike in the next fiscal year.
If approved, that would bump the average home’s water and sewer bill by $16 in Boston and 21 other communities.
The rates, which will be reviewed by the authority’s board of directors and could take effect as early as July 1, would hike the average home’s annual water and sewer bill to $763.
Executive director Frederick Laskey says the rate hikes help pay for the cost of cleaning Boston Harbor and improving the region’s water supply. About 57 percent of the authority’s budget goes to paying its debt.
Belmont would see the largest increase at 8.3 percent. The lowest increase would be 1.2 percent in Everett.
The new rates would raise $23 million.
Gov. Deval Patrick has reached a deal with the Bush administration to give Massachusetts a two- to four-week extension of a critical Medicaid waiver.
An official familiar with a meeting between Patrick and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said they reached an agreement last Friday. The extra time will let the parties negotiate a further extension to a $400 million Medicaid waiver that has powered the state’s universal health care program.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy called Leavitt last Thursday to push for the extension. He could not be at the meeting because he is undergoing treatment for a cancerous brain tumor.
The Medicaid money used to be paid exclusively to hospitals caring for the poor. Now some of it is used to subsidize private health insurance.