Falmouth resident, town of Scarborough headed to court in right-to-know case

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PORTLAND — A dispute between a frequent critic of local government and the town of Scarborough is escalating, with the two sides headed to court next week.

Michael Doyle, of 3 Shady Lane in Falmouth, who is already suing Scarborough and its town councilors in Federal Court for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights, is now challenging the town’s demand that he pay $570 for photocopies of about 1,200 emails he requested in a separate case under the state’s Freedom of Access Act.

The request involves emails allegedly sent between Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton and three women, according to documents Doyle filed in Cumberland County Superior Court.

On Monday, Doyle said he believes there might be “something interesting” in the email exchanges, but would not be more specific.

Mark Franco, the Portland attorney representing Scarborough, said he is not sure why Doyle wants access to the emails. He allowed Doyle to come to his office and review them Monday.

“He reviewed everything, but he still wants to go to trial next Tuesday because he thinks we’re not giving him everything he’s asked for,” Franco said.

He said Doyle has refused to reimburse the town for the photocopies, and won’t receive copies of the emails until he pays. The case will be heard in Superior Court in Portland on the morning of Dec. 1.

Doyle has also sought to have Justice Joyce Wheeler removed from presiding over the case. Doyle testified against Wheeler during her renomination process to the bench for perceived misconduct. Wheeler has not recused herself from the trial, and Franco said he does not expect her to.

The email conflict is not the only dispute between Doyle and the town.

In the First Amendment case, Doyle claims that on three occasions he was interrupted by councilors while attempting to speak during Town Council public forums.

At the May 6 council meeting, Doyle spoke for less than two minutes and suggested a town business owner was guilty of a sexual assault. On June 3, he spoke for roughly two minutes before being ruled out of order for comparing the council to the terrorist group ISIS. On June 17, he was ruled out of order in under a minute after asking about a fired police officer.

The town received notice of the U.S. District Court lawsuit Aug. 31, and has since filed a motion to dismiss.

Franco said Doyle’s complaint contains vague statements that have no legal merit. In August, Franco said Doyle alleged his rights were violated based on content, but nowhere in his complaint does he describe that content.

“He claims he can get up there and say anything he wants under the First Amendment,” Franco said, adding the First Amendment doesn’t allow someone “to go into a movie theater and cry fire.”

Franco filed the town’s motion to dismiss the complaint in early October. Doyle filed a response on Oct. 27.

He is seeking “relief in a monetary amount sufficient enough to punish the (town)” for violating his rights and “sufficient enough to discourage the (town) from repeating this misconduct.”

Doyle is also well known in Falmouth for his often confrontational remarks to elected officials and town staff.

In 2010, he began a petition to have Cathy Breen, then the council chairwoman and current state senator, recalled for not following town council rules. His petition failed.

In 2011, Doyle filed a complaint against Andrew Kinley, then vice chairman of the Falmouth School Board, for allegedly assaulting Doyle during a meeting. The allegation followed a dispute over public seating during the meeting. No charges were brought against Kinley.

A police officer is present at all Falmouth Town Council meetings in part because of Doyle, according to Falmouth Town Manager Nathan Poore.

Franco has previously represented Falmouth in cases involving Doyle. Last year, Doyle unsuccessfully attempted to sue the Falmouth School Department to provide him with telephone records for former Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers.

He was provided with redacted records, and he sued in Superior Court for non-redacted information, but was rebuked. He appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which upheld the lower court’s decision.

Doyle, who twice ran unsuccessfully for Falmouth School Board, is retired from the insurance business and also formerly worked as a securities trader. He now drives for Uber.

In 2002, he pleaded guilty to misrepresenting and selling unregistered securities. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison with all but 14 months suspended, and was ordered to pay a $16,000 fine. He blamed his conviction on his lawyers who, he claimed, tricked him into twice pleading guilty.

Doyle has filed hundreds of FOAA requests in Falmouth and, in 2012, was provided with access to more than 3,100 email addresses of subscribers to the town’s email notification service. He then sent out a mass email to the subscribers.

The breach eventually led lawmakers to propose changes to FOAA to protect email addresses of people who subscribe to government website and email announcement lists.

He is commonly regarded as one of Maine’s most prolific FOAA users, if not the most prolific, at times sending off requests on nearly a daily basis.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Michael Doyle

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.