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Court orders Poirier to pay attorney fees

By Jackie Roman, Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD – Concluding a lengthy legal battle over former Town Council member Richard Poirier’s Stillwater Road property, a judge has ordered Poirier to pay nearly $30,000 of attorneys’ fees.

The initial complaint was filed by CVDDI LLC, an abutter of Poirier’s property, in October of 2014.

The company claimed that “Poirier maintains a junkyard” and the plaintiff’s property has sustained damage and diminished in value “as a direct result of the Poirier’s continued operation of the junkyard.”

At the time of the filing, Poirier was running for re-election to the Town Council and filed a counterclaim in December 2015.

In that document, Poirier argued “the complaint was filed with and for an ulterior motive and was shared with (local press) where a story appeared placing defendant Richard Poirier in a negative light just days before the election.”

Poirier requested a judgment for damages against him and an award for costs and attorney fees.

In November 2016, after the company had already sold its property at a reduced sale price, CVDDI filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Poirier’s counterclaim is barred by Rhode Island’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, which protects the right to exercise petition or free speech.

“Poirier undeniably filed his counterclaim in an effort to chill plaintiff’s efforts to exercise its constitutional right to file suit against Poirier,” the document reads.

In June, Superior Court Judge Maureen Keough sided with CVDDI and eliminated Poirier’s counterclaim as a violation of the anti-SLAPP statute.

And on Sept. 29, Keough granted the plaintiffs’ motion for award of attorneys’ fees, totaling $30,000.

Poirier’s Stillwater Road property was also the subject of a Municipal Court case.

The town first alleged in 2014 that Poirier’s property was in violation of several Rhode Island housing maintenance and occupancy codes.

Poirier was cited by building and zoning officials for storing numerous inoperative or unlicensed cars, boats, equipment, and trailers, along with various debris, including scrap wood, metal, and auto parts.

The case concluded on July 20 when Poirier was issued a $500 fine.

Read the full article on The Valley Breeze website.