MacQuinn “Freedom of Access Act” Lawsuit Fails

During the long period that the Cousins Hill cases were wending their way through the courts (starting in June, 2014, see articles on this website), MacQuinn, Inc. filed an additional lawsuit against the Town of Lamoine in Maine Superior Court.  On April 21, 2020, just one month before the final Cousins Hill Supreme Court decision, the Superior Court’s ruling on this additional lawsuit was decisively in the Town’s favor. See the full decision here.

“A case dismissed with prejudice is over and done with, once and for all, and can’t be brought back to court.”-Illinois Legal Aid Online.

MacQuinn, Inc. may not appeal this ruling.  MacQuinn filed this suit against the Town of Lamoine in November, 2019, charging that the Lamoine Planning Board continued formally meeting after adjournment of its October 7th meeting. The sound of the internet broadcast had been turned off, but the video still ran, showing members continuing to talk as they mingled in the Town Hall.  Planning Board members have explained that they were discussing sports and events in town, but MacQuinn lawyers filed a three-count complaint that alleged various violations of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act (“FOAA”).

The Court found that no decisions regarding MacQuinn’s permit were made during the audio-off period. The purpose of the lawsuit was, and is, unclear.  It was settled in the Town’s favor.   It also resulted in additional legal fees for the town.

According to content posted on lamoine-me.gov, total taxpayer-paid expenditures to defend the Town against this lawsuit amount to $3,145 as of April 27, 2020.

Background on this case:

The summer of 2019 saw the increase of tensions between the town and gravel company Harold MacQuinn, Inc. On April 4, 2019, the Maine Superior Court ruled in Friends of Lamoine’s favor to overturn the Lamoine Appeals Board’s decision to allow the removal of Cousins Hill. MacQuinn nevertheless began site work in the un-permitted area, resulting in an April 17 Stop Work Order issued by Lamoine’s CEO.  In July, 2020, MacQuinn appealed the Superior Court’s decision to the Maine Supreme Court.

At last fall’s September 9, 2019, Planning Board meeting, members began reviewing applications for all the soon-to-expire pit permits. The MacQuinn/ Kittredge Pit, adjacent to Cousins Hill, was the first to be reviewed. Board Chairman John Holt recused himself because of his involvement with the Cold Spring Water Company. FOL requested the recusal of Perry Fowler based on his business relationship with MacQuinn. He agreed and stepped down. Board members imposed some changes to the permit including details about restoration and slopes. Audience members voiced concern about unmarked boundaries, wetlands and the tendency for MacQuinn to fail to meet past requirements.  A decision was tabled until the next meeting.

At the October 7 meeting, MacQuinn’s two lawyers, Ed Bearor and Katie Foster, were present. Perry Fowler rescinded his recusal from the last meeting and rejoined the review. Chairman Holt continued to recuse himself. A decision was reached to approve the Kittredge permit with conditions. It was after adjournment that the alleged “secret meeting” took place.

 

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