By G. Michael Dobbs
WEST SPRINGFIELD – West Springfield resident and Chicopee business owner Ted Hebert has paid for exhibit space at the Eastern States Exposition (ESE) for the past 28 years, but now he says he is being refused space for Teddy Bear Pools because Hebert opposed the proposed casino project at the ESE.
Hebert filed a lawsuit on March 31 in Hampden Superior Court “seeking injunctive relief that would allow Teddy Bear Pools, an exhibitor at the Eastern States Exposition for the past 28 years, to have a continued presence,” according to Hebert’s attorney Paul Rothschild.
When contacted about the lawsuit, Eugene Cassidy, the ESE president released the following statement: “Eastern States Exposition learned of a lawsuit filed by Ted Hebert from the media who received a press release announcing the lawsuit. We have received no official notification of this action. Mrs. Cassidy and I were with Mr. and Mrs. Hebert on Saturday evening, March 22, at a function for the West Springfield St. Patrick’s Committee at the Coliseum and no mention was made of any legal action.”
Rothschild explained to Reminder Publications that Hebert had expressed his opposition to the Hard Rock casino project. After the referendum failed to approve the project last fall, Hebert had a meeting with Cassidy in which he expressed his wish to reconcile and continue his business relationship with the ESE.
Hebert also had a conversation with Cassidy on Jan. 10 in which he again tried to move forward. Rothschild added Hebert had spoken to several ESE trustees who confirmed he was out of the annual fair.
Rothschild said as an additional measure, “A number of people wrote letter on Hebert’s behalf.”
What is at stake is the revenue Hebert’s company would have made by exhibiting at the ESE.
“It will cause a substantial economic loss to the company,” Rothschild said. Having the presence at the ESE markets to people outside of the area, he added.
In response to the statement made by Cassidy, Rothschild said neither Hebert nor his wife would have brought up the subject of a lawsuit at a social event.
Rothschild said Hebert is still willing to talk with ESE officials about the situation.
Hebert released the following statement: “I’m sorry that Teddy Bear Pools, our staff, customers, my fellow West Springfield residents and attendees to the Big E will be suffering the consequences of my personal opposition to a West Springfield casino.
“I was certainly honest and straightforward with Big E President Gene Cassidy and the Board of Trustees about my philosophical difference on the proposed West Springfield casino. I viewed this as a sincere difference of opinion, and certainly respected the Fair’s right to bring the proposal to the voters of West Springfield. During the referendum campaign, and for several months after, I have communicated with Exposition leadership in an effort to maintain the working relationship between Teddy Bear Pools and the Fair. Never did I think my personal choice to publicly express my opinion about the referendum would lead to Teddy Bear Pools being banished as an exhibitor from the Exposition.
“I respect the Fair, what it represents in our West Springfield community and our region and I have appealed to Exposition leadership to allow Teddy Bear Pools to continue as a longtime exhibitor on the fairgrounds this fall. I recognize that debate can be heated in any political process, but retribution should not be the price of freely expressing oneself. I remain hopeful that we can resume our long-term relationship to the benefit of our two organizations and the many fairgoers we have come to know and serve over these past 28 years.”