‘The conduct of the Defendants shocks the conscience of a decent society’.
BUCKSPORT, Maine, April 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Asad Khaqan, owner of the former Fountain Inn (a.k.a Spring Fountain Motel) located on Route 1 in Bucksport, Maine, today announced that he has filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Bucksport and its representatives. The complaint, setting forth numerous violations of Khaqan’s civil, equal protection, and due process rights, as well as intentional interference with contractual relations and harassment, was filed on April 7 in the U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Khaqan, a hospitality entrepreneur known for his work with nonprofits, purchased the property on March 30, 2018. As the lawsuit alleges, things took a negative turn shortly after Khaqan took over the business. Bucksport’s current CEO, Luke Chiavelli, acting on behalf of the town, embarked on what Khaqan describes as an aggressive campaign to shut down the former establishment.
“The code enforcement officer demonstrated a refusal to work with us,” says Khaqan. “He aggressively pursued inspections and alleged violations, most of which were cosmetic or small electrical or plumbing issues, while failing to even follow up on inspections of similar businesses operating in Bucksport. He also presented photos to the town council which failed to display the numerous remedial measures that were carried out and made false statements of alleged progress at the property despite having been in touch with our contractor.”
Khaqan alleges the town took issue with the cultural background of his property managers and let a couple of racially driven incidents slide without any formal investigation. As outlined in the lawsuit, the situation escalated when a number of families who could not afford traditional housing sought long-term refuge at the former establishment. The town denied Khaqan a permanent license to operate as a commercial motel but made every move to push the tenants out. In one alleged instance, the CEO intervened and had some state-funded rental payments stopped. When some occupants became problematic, the town hid behind the absence of an innkeeper’s license and refused police assistance, leaving the property and staff vulnerable and deeming problems as justifiable cause for shutting the property down.
“Various members of our staff expressed that they felt unsafe around some of the occupants and intimidated by town officials,” says Khaqan. “They were scared to check on rooms and perform basic cleaning services. Some of the rooms were repeatedly vandalized by occupants. In several incidents, occupants called the town and reported the self-inflicted damages as unaddressed repairs. They removed smoke detectors and refused to let our contractors enter their living spaces to fix the damages, giving the CEO yet another way to assess violations. This spread via word-of-mouth to other problematic occupants, who were looking for a way to live rent free. Staff would call the local police department for help and the CEO would show up with his camera. It became a vicious cycle that we largely had no control over.”
Despite these issues, when a number of families found themselves unable to pay for their occupancy during the COVID-19 pandemic, Khaqan forgave their balances for multiple months and did not open eviction proceedings.
The town council officially designated the former motel as a “dangerous building” in April 2021. With that designation, the town forced occupants to vacate within 48 hours and gave Khaqan only 90 days to address the alleged violations. After the order, Khaqan hired an independent civil engineering firm to analyze the buildings. They found the structures to be intact with no danger of collapsing. Khaqan alleges that the CEO tried to influence the firm to change their statement, which they refused. The property was listed for sale in April 2022, and although there was a potential buyer, the town declined to lift the dangerous building order and the sale fell through.
MEDIA CONTACT: Crystal Lynn at [email protected].
SOURCE Spring Fountain Studios LLC
Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/property-owner-files-federal-lawsuit-alleging-small-town-maine-has-a-big-time-ethics-problem-301807414.html