November 18, 2019

Judge hears motions in Houlton trash lawsuit

HOULTON – Arguments were heard Wednesday in Aroostook County Superior Court regarding motions in a civil lawsuit filed by a former trash hauler for Houlton against the town and three competitors.

In April 1999, Andy Marino, doing business as Andino Inc., filed suit against the town, claiming that despite his exclusive seven-year contract with the town to collect residential trash beginning in 1995, the town continued to allow his competitors to collect trash as well.

The lawsuit claims breach of contract, civil rights violations, and interference with business.

Marino also filed suit against competitors David C. Condon of Oakfield, and William J. Faulkner and Fred Spellman, both of Houlton, for allegedly continuing to collect residential trash in the town, despite Marino’s exclusive contract.

Condon and Spellman, as well as Andino Inc., were purchased by Sawyer Environmental Services in December 1998.

Marino has claimed that because the town allowed the other haulers to operate, he suffered monetary harm and was forced to sell his business to Sawyer for less than it was worth.

Marino is seeking unspecified damages, as well as other relief in the form of lawyer’s fees and costs.

He has claimed that the town failed to enforce its own trash collection ordinance by not only allowing Condon, Faulkner and Spellman to continue trash collection, but also by failing to enforce the requirement that residents use his services only.

“The townspeople of Houlton were not pleased with closure of the dump and the fact that they had to pay for something they didn’t have to pay for before,” said Marino’s attorney, Phillip Buckley of Bangor.

While the town retained the power to enforce public compliance with the ordinance, because there was resistance to trash collection by Andino, “what the town did is back away from that obligation,” Buckley said.

In 1995, shortly after the contract with Andino Inc. was approved, the town, under pressure from the public and the other haulers, modified the original ordinance to allow the other haulers to collect residential trash.

Marino agreed to the change, provided all of the trash collected by them was taken to his facility in Houlton.

In 1996 and 1997, a federal district court judge issued temporary and preliminary injunctions indicating that that was potentially unconstitutional and the town could not force the other haulers to take collected trash exclusively to Andino.

Town officials subsequently corrected the problem by restoring exclusive collection to Andino Inc.

Marino claims, however, that the town failed to enforce that change.

“They continued business as usual,” Buckley said of the other three haulers. “That was interfering with [Andino’s] business.

Attorney Michael Saucier of Portland, representing the town, said the town, in its contract with Andino Inc., never guaranteed enforcement, full participation by all residents or a set guarantee of tonnage.

“These matters were acknowledged as risks by Andino during the bidding process,” he said.

The town filed a motion for summary judgment, asking that Marino’s original 1999 complaint be dismissed.

Attorney Robert Morris of Brunswick, who is representing the three trash haulers being sued by Marino, also filed motions for summary judgment by the court that Marino’s complaints be dismissed.

Morris said that in order for any of the three to have interfered with Marino’s business, it must be established that they intentionally forced or coerced residents in Houlton to do business with them rather than Andino.

“[Andy Marino] does not know any incident where any of my clients forced, tricked or coerced any resident of Houlton to give them trash,” Morris said.

Regarding Marino’s request to amend the original complaint to include breach of contract claims against the three haulers, Morris said amending the original complaint after almost two years of discovery and depositions had ended was “inexcusable.”

He said inclusion of the new claims would only further delay a decision by the court as well as add to the financial burdens on his clients.

Buckley countered that it was only during the discovery period that it became evident that there was an additional breach of contract claim against Condon, Faulkner and Spellman.

While he did not issue a decision Wednesday on any of the motions, Justice Warren did express his concern on the lateness of Marino’s motion to amend his original complaint.

“After discovery ends, in my opinion, the case is ready for trial,” Warren said.

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