AUBURN — A company created by a Twin Cities quasi-municipal economic development group is seeking to attach the assets of a local marketing company, claiming it owes rent on a Lisbon Street office in Lewiston.

At a Thursday hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court, Justice MaryGay Kennedy heard arguments by both sides on a motion filed by Southern Gateway LLC to attach about $65,000 in assets belonging to Argo Marketing Group Inc., a Lewiston-based call center. Southern Gateway filed the motion in the belief that it’s likely to win its lawsuit.

The dispute developed after Argo moved out of Southern Gateway’s 5,000-square-foot, second-floor office condominium in the so-called Pontiac building at 415 Lisbon St. in February 2014, relocating to the former McCrory’s department store that fronts 64 Lisbon St.

Southern Gateway was created by the nonprofit Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council to purchase and redevelop the Pontiac building.

According to a December sworn affidavit by Lucien Gosselin, manager of Southern Gateway, Argo signed a four-year lease that is due to expire in April.

In addition to rent, Argo was expected to pay all electrical, water and sewer charges, as well as property taxes for that space, Gosselin said. Argo complied with those conditions until March last year, when it breached its lease, Gosselin said.


Since realizing Argo wouldn’t be returning to its leased office space, Southern Gateway has attempted to lease the condominium again to mitigate its damages, but has failed to attract a new tenant, Gosselin said.

Argo paid no security deposit when it moved into the space at 415 Lisbon St. and there is no liability insurance available to Argo to cover what it owes, Gosselin said.

Defense attorney John Clifford IV, who represents Argo, argued Thursday against the attachment of Argo’s assets.

He characterized the case as a “he said, she said,” where one side says there was no lease and the other says there was; or Argo says it was released from the lease and Southern Gateway says it wasn’t.

Clifford said Southern Gateway failed to show the underlying business structure of the landlord and ownership of the property. He said Southern Gateway’s records suggest it was the Growth Council and its Lewiston arm, the Lewiston Development Corporation — not Southern Gateway — that made efforts to re-lease the space.

Kennedy told Coleman Coyne Jr., attorney for Southern Gateway, that additional documentation would be needed to support Southern Gateway’s argument that it undertook efforts to find a new tenant for the former Argo space. Coyne said he would provide the additional documentation by the end of the month.


Clifford questioned whether Southern Gateway had clear title to the property to be able to offer a lease for the space.

Moreover, Clifford raised the issue of whether the person who signed the lease on behalf of Argo was authorized to do so.

To that point, Justice Kennedy said: “It does seem a bit late in the game” for Argo to make that argument given the fact that they occupied that space for three years.

Clifford countered that Argo could have viewed itself as a monthly tenant, free to leave at the end of any given month.

“You can’t create a lease out of nothing,” he said.

Coyne said Gosselin had personal knowledge of the regular business records of Southern Gateway as Gosselin outlined in his affidavit and could readily testify under oath about them. Argo hasn’t rebutted any of the claims made by Gosselin about those records, helping to prove his point, Coyne said.


Clifford countered that Gosselin likely didn’t personally receive the monthly rental checks from Argo and make the ledger entries himself that appear in the business records for Southern Gateway.

Kennedy read from Gosselin’s affidavit: “I am personally familiar with the payment history pursuant to this commercial lease. From such personal knowledge and records of Southern Gateway LLC with which I am personally familiar.”

Clifford likened the business records argument to those made in mortgage foreclosure cases, which he suggested he has argued repeatedly in court before Kennedy.

Kennedy pointed out that this case was not a foreclosure, but acknowledged Clifford’s successes in those cases.

“I admire the arguments you have made in the mortgage cases,” she said. “And it has certainly proven to be quite a remarkable feat.”

But Kennedy said she didn’t see how that argument translated to a situation where the manager of a property signed the actual lease and has personal knowledge of the business records having to do with that lease.

Coyne said Argo walked out after three years of a four-year lease which, he argued, remains in effect. For that reason, Argo can’t challenge the ownership or title of the property as belonging to Southern Gateway.

Kennedy made no decisions and issued no orders on the plaintiff’s motion Thursday.

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