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Matt Viser, Globe Correspondent - March 3, 2005

The internal squabbles among members of the Newton Taxpayers Association are no longer internal.

Brenda Loew, who has been active in the group in the past, last week filed a lawsuit against Jeff Seideman, a candidate to become the group's next president. She alleges in the suit, filed Feb. 24, that Seideman libeled her in an e-mail sent to her and one other member of the association. "I wouldn't waste any more time with her, trying to explain things," Seideman wrote in a Jan. 27 e-mail. "She's delusional. And a liar to boot."

Loew is suing for $100,000 for suffering "very substantial personal pain of mind and professional damages," according to the suit. Loew, who is a paralegal, filed the suit in Middlesex Superior Court.

"I'm not delusional, nor a liar," Loew said in an interview. "I really take exception to that. It was directed at me, and I felt it was malicious and intended to harm me. That's the definition of defamation."

The Newton Taxpayers Association originally was scheduled to vote last week to elect a new president, but members decided to wait. Even the vote on whether to elect the next president was a tie, 8 to 8. The group's president, Paula S. Kay, declared that the vote would be postponed until the next meeting, on Wednesday.

"There was a certain uneasiness, I guess, about the fact that there seemed to be a rift," said Brian Camenker, the current co-vice president. "We kicked it around and we decided to wait a couple of weeks and vote again."

This is only the latest in a long string of conflicts in one of the city's oldest grass-roots political groups, and it comes at a time when members say they need to be united for a ballot initiative against a new Newton North and to field candidates in November elections.

The squabbling began in mid-January, when some members of the taxpayers association floated the idea of having Seideman, a registered Democrat who had been active in the group for only about six months, take over as the next president.

Seideman declined an invitation to appear on "Newton Talk" on NewTV, a show that Loew produces and another taxpayers association member, Jackie Morrissey, hosts. Seideman said he did not want to appear on the show until the election was over, because he did not want it to appear that he was representing the organization.

Loew said she felt snubbed, and she proceeded to send out several e-mails to the group, one of which had a link to a site that has a photo of Seideman standing next to Lenna Soderberg, who was Playboy's Miss November 1972. "Everyone say hello to Lenna!" Loew wrote in the e-mail.

Computer programmers scanned in Soderberg's centerfold as a test image for early compression software, and in 1997, Seideman, working with officials at Playboy, tracked her down in her native Sweden and brought her to a Boston conference on the history of digital imaging.

That led to a flurry of e-mails, including the one that Seideman wrote, in which Loew says she was libeled.

"I think it's frivolous," Seideman said in an interview. "The effect is just to distract us from the job at hand. By doing this, it just emphasizes in the public's mind that there's all this bickering and disagreement going on, which I don't think is the case. I think when people set aside their social issues, everyone is united in trying to get the city to be fiscally responsible. This is just a distraction. It's a frivolous lawsuit."

Some members have started trying to distance themselves from Loew, and Loew herself has talked about leaving the group to start a new one.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers association is coping with a void in its leadership; all the officers in the group have said that they won't run for reelection. At 16 members, the group's board of directors lacks the 21 required by its bylaws.

Kay, the current president, says she doesn't want to be president next year for personal reasons, and the group's co-vice president and treasurer, Marsha Ciccolo, has told members that she plans to resign. Camenker, the other co-vice president, has wavered on whether he would run again for vice president. He told the Globe in January that he would run, but last week, he said he wouldn't.

Various names have been floated for replacements, including Greer Tan Swiston, the Republican challenger to state Representative Kay Khan last November; William Heck, the former general manager at Copley Plaza Hotel who ran for aldermen in 2003

"There's clearly two factions for and against me," Seideman said. "The group that's for me thinks we have to move forward, we have to set an agenda, and we've got to patch up the reputation of the organization. Then there's other people who feel all their woes are due to people who don't like them."

Right now, Seideman is running unopposed, but he says his opponents are searching for a candidate to run against him.

Matt Viser can be reached at

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