LEWISTON — The Maine Human Rights Commission found reasonable grounds this week to believe landlord Scott Pinkham of Phillips harassed his former tenant because of the tenant’s gender identity.

According to a complaint filed with the commission by tenant Roger McIntire, Pinkham knew McIntire was transgender and harassed him in the months prior to his eviction. McIntire also alleged that Pinkham evicted him based on his gender identity, but the commission did not find grounds to support that claim.

According to the commission’s investigation, McIntire was “born biologically male and identifying as a female,” and although he does not presently dress or present himself as a woman, he still considers himself “female and has dressed and presented himself as a female in the past.”

McIntire started renting an apartment from Pinkham in December 2008, paying $600 monthly without a lease agreement. McIntire alleges that on March 11, 2010, Pinkham left him a threatening phone message, referring to McIntire as a “transvestite” and giving him 24 hours notice to vacate.

Pinkham claims that he requested McIntire move because McIntire caused damage to the home, including starting an accidental fire in the kitchen and allowing his dog to urinate and defecate in the house. Pinkham denies knowing that McIntire is transgender, and told investigators the two men frequently hurled insults at one another in anger.

Pinkham told the commission’s investigator that he explained to McIntire he wanted to remodel the house and intended to move there himself, forcing McIntire’s eviction.

The day Pinkham gave McIntire notice, Pinkham came to the house with a friend and started removing appliances and furniture and McIntire called police.

According to a Maine State Police report, Pinkham was instructed not to be in the house remodeling while the tenant was still living there. The responding trooper recommended to Pinkham that he go through a standard eviction process before continuing the remodeling work and, according to the police report, Pinkham agreed.

Two days later, according to police, McIntire called police to report Pinkham was inside the home, having broken down a door that McIntire had nailed shut to keep Pinkham out. Pinkham was not at the home when police arrived, but was later charged with criminal trespass.

Some months later, Pinkham was found guilty on that charge in 12th District Court in Farmington and fined $200.

According to the Maine Human Rights Commission report, it is unlawful to evict someone based on sexual orientation alone, but since there was evidence that McIntire had not properly cared for the home, Pinkham was within his rights as a landlord to evict him.

The commission’s investigator found, though, that Pinkham did threaten and intimidate McIntire during the eviction process, based on McIntire’s sexual orientation, which is considered a violation of Maine law protecting tenants in protected classes from hostile housing environments.

In this case, the investigator’s finding that a hostile housing environment existed is based on Pinkham’s harassment of McIntire based on McIntire’s sexual orientation.

McIntire is represented by attorney Susan Farnsworth of Hallowell; Pinkham represents himself.

In its finding, the commission urged the parties to reconcile their differences through the agency’s informal conciliation process before moving to civil action in Superior Court.

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