Michael Doyle

SCARBOROUGH — A critic of local government who was arrested at a Town Council Meeting in 2017 is suing the town, claiming his right to freedom of speech was violated.

Michael Doyle, 71, a former Falmouth resident who now lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, alleges that a directive he received to leave a public meeting on Nov. 12, 2017 was not legally binding.

In the lawsuit, Doyle said he was interrupted by then-Chairman Shawn Babine and Councilor Bill Donovan, who asked him to leave the room after he suggested Town Manager Tom Hall left his prior job as city manager in Rockland under “suspicious circumstances.”

When Doyle refused to leave, he was arrested by Scarborough Police Officer Mary Pearson and escorted to Cumberland County Jail, where he posted $60 bail. Doyle appeared in court Jan. 10, 2018 to face the misdemeanor charge, and his case was dismissed. No representatives from the town were present to argue against the ruling.

Doyle names Babine, Pearson and the town of Scarborough in his lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Portland on Oct. 7

The rules used by councilors during public comment note that speakers should strive to make accurate statements and avoid making personal, rude or provocative remarks, and that council members may ask people to be seated or removed if they make any “inappropriate statements.”

“I actually realized I had the wrong information (about the town manager), and I went back months later and apologized,” Doyle said during a phone interview Oct. 18. “I’m looking for compensation for putting me in jail unnecessarily, and I want the court to strike down rules implemented by council.”

The lawsuit claims that Doyle’s freedom of speech was infringed upon, and that he was wrongfully arrested for attempting to “peacefully utilize the remainder of his allotted three-minute time period for speaking.”

“I can say anything I want as long as I’m not enticing violence,” Doyle said. “This has crossed the line of first amendment bill of rights protection that every American has – we’re allowed to petition the government, ask questions, come to public meetings and be heard. Even if it’s something you don’t like.”

Hall said on Oct. 21 that Doyle visited the municipal building “recently,” but the town had not officially received the lawsuit as of Monday. If served, Hall said, he plans to review the document with a lawyer as soon as possible. Hall was unwilling to comment further, citing the pending litigation.

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina, who attended the 2017 meeting but was not yet a council member, said she remembers leaving the room during the incident because of how disruptive it was, but wasn’t willing to say more. Attempts to reach the town’s attorney, Phil Saucier, via phone were unsuccessful on Oct. 21.

This isn’t Doyle’s first court action involving local government. In 2015, he sued the town in U.S. District Court in Portland, claiming his First Amendment rights had been violated on three occasions when councilors interrupted him at the podium during forums. The case was dismissed in February 2017.

In 2011, he filed a complaint alleging that then-vice chairman of the Falmouth School Board Andrew Kinley assaulted him during a meeting. No charges were brought forward. He also unsuccessfully sued the Falmouth School Department in an attempt to get the telephone records of former Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers.

Doyle has had run-ins with the law. Now retired from the insurance and securities industries, in 2002 he pleaded guilty to misrepresenting and selling unregistered securities and sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison. All but 14 months of his sentence was suspended and he was ordered to pay a $16,000 fine.

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