PORTLAND — The state’s highest court sided with the city of Lewiston in upholding a lower court ruling that a building owner had violated ordinances and was not excessively fined.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court also favored the city by overturning an Androscoggin County Superior Court decision that allowed the building’s owner, William Verrinder, to pay only the amount of one of the two fines imposed on him by the city.

Verrinder owned a residential building in Lewiston in 2017.

The city’s codes enforcement officer responded to a complaint Nov. 8 that year and cited Verrinder for two code violations: “trash and construction demolition debris throughout the property, and (damaged) front stairs … as the first step is missing half the tread,” according to the court decision handed down last month.

About a week later, Verrinder contacted the officer about the notice of the violations.

On Dec. 11, 2017, the city filed a land use complaint against Verrinder in 8th District Court in Lewiston.


Verrinder tried to transfer the case to federal court, but that court found it had no jurisdiction and sent the matter back to the state court.

In September 2018, Verrinder, who represented himself in court, transferred the case to the Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn for a jury trial. Both the city and Verrinder moved for summary judgment of the case.

On Jan. 14, 2021, the court issued an order granting the city’s motion in part and denied Verrinder’s motion, concluding that the city was entitled to a judgment because Verrinder hadn’t appealed his case to the Lewiston Board of Appeals from the code enforcement officer’s notice of violation when it was issued in November 2017.

The court scheduled a hearing to determine what appropriate penalty should be imposed, along with costs and fees.

At that hearing, the city asked that the minimum statutory penalty of $100 per day for each of the two violations, plus attorney fees and costs be imposed on Verrinder.

The court decided that, although it considered the total civil penalty the city was seeking was “disproportionate to the offenses,” the court was “without discretion to impose less than $24,300 for the 243 days of continuing violation involving the accumulation of rubbish or garbage, and $14,700 for the 147 days of continuing violation involving the damaged front stairs,” according to the high court’s decision.


The Superior Court judge ordered that the two penalties run concurrently with each other, with the result that the total penalty that must be paid is $24,300, the cost of the higher violation.

The court also awarded the city attorney fees of $28,257.

Verrinder appealed to the state’s highest court, arguing that the lower court made a mistake when it ruled that the city was entitled to a judgment because Verrinder hadn’t appealed his case to the Lewiston Board of Appeals. Verrinder also argued in his appeal to the high court that the Superior Court judge shouldn’t have awarded attorneys fees to the city.

City attorneys argued to the Supreme Court that the Superior Court didn’t have the authority to order that the penalties for the two violations run concurrently, meaning Verrinder would only have to pay the cost of one of the violations.

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