Yerxa condo developer acts as own lawyer; case delayed to August
Condominium developer Joseph F. Perroncello was in court Wednesday, but for the second consecutive appearance he was alone, without legal representation, according to people who attended.
On June 1 he was arraigned at 9 a.m. without attorney James Rafferty, although neighbors of his construction site, neighborhood watchdogs and city officials all arrived for the listed 2 p.m. appearance. On Wednesday, he signed waivers to represent himself in court, acknowledged he hadn’t seen some documents necessary to his defense and was given a new court date of Aug. 12.
“It was a little bit of a surprise at this point,” said the city’s attorney, Joseph Amoroso, of Rafferty’s absence. “We’re still headed toward trial, if he presses the issue.”
The issue Amoroso refers to: whether Perroncello is complying with city law and the Office of Inspectional Services at his L-shaped, 2.2-acre lot at Yerxa Road and Rindge Avenue.
Over nearly six years, Perroncello has been converting a three-building Roman Catholic school into condominiums. Neighbors have complained over that time that the Boston developer has failed to clean the site or keep work within allowed hours. They say construction has drawn rats with garbage and caused flooding and cracked foundations at nearby homes. He also brought in tenants illegally, although he now has the city’s permission to lease units in one building while the others are under construction. The developer has said he has money troubles, and a foreclosure document has been filed against him in Boston Land Court.
City inspectors met with Rafferty on Tuesday at the site, said North Cambridge attorney and watchdog Richard Clarey, which is another reason it was surprising when he failed to appear Wednesday in court. Rafferty insisted the site was essentially in compliance with city demands.
Perroncello repeated that Wednesday to his accusers at the Medford courthouse, speaking in the hallway after appearing before Judge Michele Hogan, according to Amoroso and others who were there.
“He has some impression he’d done the work, and we made clear we didn’t feel that was true,” Amoroso said Wednesday evening in a telephone interview.
When Perroncello insisted he was taking care of the remaining matters, city inspectors and Amoroso answered by pointing out repeatedly he’d had five years in which to act. “I said the matter has dragged on and he hasn’t taken the steps to comply,” Amoroso said.
Delaying the case until August didn’t bother the attorney.
“It’s progressing,” he said of the case. “This is actually fairly short for a compliance issue.”
Clarey was surprised at Amoroso’s apparent calm. But it fits with the pattern of the whole case, Clarey said.
“They don’t seem to be taking this case too seriously,” he said of the attorneys, city and judge. “They seem to be very relaxed about it. I wouldn’t dare not show up. A judge could [punish] a lawyer that didn’t show up … I saw he filed an appearance, and once he filed an appearance, he has to show up.”
A message seeking comment was left with Rafferty late Wednesday.
This post was updated July 19 to add Rafferty’s appearance at the construction site Tuesday, to clarify some of Perroncello’s comments Wednesday and to add comment by Clarey. It was updated July 24 to revise Clarey’s comments.