May 24, 2020

Court rules inspection for fire safety was legal

PRESQUE ISLE — The state’s supreme court has found that two local fire officials were within their rights when they inspected R&R Cash Market five years ago.

The store owners claimed in a civil lawsuit that Fire Chief James Krysiak and Deputy Fire Chief Peter Coffin violated the owners’ consitutional rights during the inspection. Roger Pelkey and his daughter, Robin Lagassie, also argued that the inspection was done without a proper warrant.

However, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court decided differently in its opinion issued late last week.

“The officers here conducted the search pursuant to a state statute that authorizes fire inspectors, such as Chief Krysiak and Deputy Chief Coffin, to inspect buildings during reasonable hours for the limited purpose of detecting fire hazards,” said the opinion.

The case was one of two Aroostook County-based cases heard before the state’s highest court during a rare session in Houlton last month.

City Manager Thomas Stevens said Monday he was pleased with the decision.

“It affirms that the city or its employees did nothing wrong in conducting the inspection,” Steven said.

The inspection was conducted April 13, 1991 in response to a citizen’s complaint that the convenience store, which cooks food, did not have a fire extinquisher.

The storeowners brought their case to superior court last year but saw it dismissed. In their appeal to the law court, Pelkey and Lagassie argued that their constitutional rights were violated. In addition, they claimed that damage was done by the fire officials during the inspection.

Citing other opinions, the high court found that Krysiak and Coffin were immune from such lawsuits as long as their inspection was conducted in “objective good faith.”

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