July 30, 2013

Couple sues Westbrook, police over eviction

A lawsuit alleges two renters never got proper notice and were treated illegally by the city's police.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

20130730_ ACLU
click image to enlarge

Anne M. Blake and life partner Kevin McBride have filed a lawsuit against the Westbrook Police Department saying they were illegally evicted from their apartment. In this Tuesday, July 30, 2013 photo she sits at a camp, which they built and now live in, near the Maine Turnpike at Exit 8.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

20130730_ ACLU
click image to enlarge

Kevin McBride and Anne M. Blake talk about their eviction from their Westbrook apartment and the misery they've had to endure. Pine Tree Legal Assistance and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Westbrook couple accusing the Westbrook Police Department of violating their constitutional rights by wrongfully using a no-trespassing order to evict the couple earlier this month.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

Their landlord, Amie LeClerc, said in a text message that she would "rather not comment on this matter."

Westbrook City Administrator Jerre Bryant said he had received a copy of the lawsuit Tuesday morning and would be forwarding it to the city's legal department.

Blake and McBride had lived in the second-floor apartment for about a year, having moved there to be closer to their grandchildren and Blake's daughter, who still live on the first floor.

McBride, 53, works two jobs, nearly 40 hours a week at McDonald's and seasonally as a cook at Hadlock Stadium in Portland during Sea Dogs games.

He can make between $1,200 and $1,600 a month, but with a monthly rent of $1,000 without utilities, they struggled to keep up.

"We understood the eviction, but we did not understand the ... trespassing," McBride said, adding that the landlords rejected their offer to settle back rent and move out of the apartment by the end of July.

Blake and McBride moved first on short notice with their dog to the Motel 6 on the Westbrook-Portland line. After spending all their own money, pawning possessions and borrowing, they moved out of the hotel and have been camping in a nearby wooded area for the last week.

"We knew we had to give up our dog, which had been our family dog for five years," McBride said.

The couple, who have been together for years, are now trying to find a new apartment. McBride, an Army veteran, is hoping assistance from the Department of Veteran Affairs will help.

"Now we're living in the woods, and it's scary out there, I'm telling you," said Blake, 59. "It's bad out there."

Blake said part of the reason they wanted to file a lawsuit was to prevent something like this from happening to someone else.

McBride agreed.

"I know this hasn't happened to just me. Once these landlords are aware that they can't walk over poor, low-income people, they will think before they act that way. We as tenants still have rights," McBride said. "I feel if I don't speak up, I don't feel people would have a chance to get help."

Their attorney, McGovern, said she is seeking in the lawsuit to have Blake and McBride compensated for motel costs, legal fees, losses and other unspecified damages.

"We think it's important that the police can't deprive a tenant of their rights of due process by making it a crime to go back to their own home," McGovern said.

The city of Westbrook has 30 days to acknowledge being served with the lawsuit and 21 days after that to respond.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@mainetoday.com

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