Pittsfield man with giant Trump sign says town targeted him 

  • Joe McCoy expresses his support of Donald Trump in front of the 52-foot trailer his stepson Brian Bales painted in front of his home on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield on August, 9, 2016. Geoff Forester / Monitor file

  • Joe McCoy expresses his support of Donald Trump in front of the 52-foot trailer his stepson Brian Bales painted in front of his home on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield, N.H. on Tuesday, August, 9, 2016. Geoff Forester—Monitor file

  • Joe and Linda McCoy in front of the 52-foot trailer her son Brian Bales painted into a Trump sign in front of their property on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield, N.H., August 8, 2016. Geoff Forester—Monitor file

  • Joe and Linda McCoy in front of the 52-foot trailer her son Brian Bales painted into a Trump sign in front of their property on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield, N.H., August 8, 2016. Geoff Forester—Monitor file

  • Brian Bales painted the Trump trailer in front his mother and step-father’s home on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield, N.H. Bales and his fiance Nancy Benson are supporting Donald Trump for President and he has painted the side of a 52-foot trailer to show it. Geoff Forester—Monitor file

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joe McCoy filed a $10 million lawsuit against the town of Pittsfield in federal court earlier this year, claiming the town and its select board had overstepped their boundaries. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joe McCoy said the town threatened to fine him $500 per day if the trailer wasn’t moved, which it was in July 2018. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/28/2020 3:18:33 PM

Joe McCoy is convinced his hometown has deliberately muzzled him because of his support for Donald Trump.

As yet another sign of the current national tension that’s surfaced between both political parties, McCoy, a disabled resident of Pittsfield, said the town muscled its way into his life, forcing him to remove a giant painted mural that read “TRUMP!” in big white letters and covered the length of a green 52-foot trailer on his property.

The select board cited invalid permitting, but McCoy believes anti-Trumpers are at work here, which is why he filed a $10 million lawsuit against the town of Pittsfield in federal court earlier this year, claiming the town and its select board had overstepped their boundaries.

“His constitutional rights were violated,” said Robert Fojo, McCoy’s Bedford-based attorney. “The directive to remove it is in violation of his free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

McCoy and his lawyer are certain that the main problem with the trailer – which was finally removed in 2018 – was politics, not town policy.

“What troubles me was the use of his trailer was to express his support for Trump and the town targeted him on a complaint it received,” Fojo said.

In the lawsuit, Fojo accuses the town of selective enforcement for going after McCoy while doing nothing about other unpermitted trailers that didn’t carry a political message.

“Three members of the board of selectmen – Mr. Anderson, Larry Konopka, and Jim Allard – repeatedly harassed Mr. McCoy about his trailer; upon information and belief, they undertook no steps to apply similar pressure to other property owners in the town who had similar trailers,” the lawsuit states.

Pittsfield’s response, filed in June, said the town was simply enforcing its zoning ordinance, saying McCoy had identified the trailer as a storage facility and, in fact, had received a permit for that purpose in 2015, ’16 and ’17. McCoy’s son painted the trailer in July of 2016, leading up to the November election.

“The town notes that plaintiff applied for and received permit approvals for a storage container consistent with his representations that the trailer was being used to store his personal belongings,” Concord attorney Robert Dietel, representing Pittsfield, wrote in his response to the lawsuit. “The plaintiff did not apply for an outdoor sign permit under Article 9 of the zoning ordinance.”

Dietel was on vacation this week and unavailable for comment.

McCoy’s woes actually began four years ago, right after he was on the front page of the paper, a full three months before Trump’s shocking victory in the presidential election.

The Monitor published a story in the summer of 2016 about Joe, his wife, Linda McCoy, and their son, Brian Bales, a family who wore their allegiance to Trump on their sleeves – and their semi-trailer – and made no apologies for their support.

They were a couple, both on disability, with a yard-sale like business. They bought items, some found in old storage lockers, and resold them for profit. They were depending on Trump to improve their lives, citing his business skills, and they resented when Trump supporters were labeled as racists, which happened often.

The Monitor returned for a follow-up story after the election, but McCoy, once gregarious and welcoming, had become reserved and distant, declining to be interviewed without revealing what had happened to change his demeanor in such a drastic way.

Court filings reveal McCoy’s trouble with the town began right after the Monitor’s story was published. McCoy said by phone this week that the town’s building inspector, Jesse Pacheco, had visited him three weeks after the story ran, wondering about licensing and questioning the officially stated purpose of McCoy’s trailer: was it a storage facility or a sign showing political support?

“Mr. Pacheco admitted to Mr. McCoy that the board of selectmen alleged it ordered Mr. McCoy to remove the trailer because of complaints the town had received about it,” read the complaint. “Upon information and belief, however, the town never received any complaints about Mr. McCoy’s trailer.”

McCoy suspects that the complaints came from the board itself, not a member or members of the general public.

“The (Monitor) article demonstrates the principal use of the trailer was as a sign to express political speech,” according to the lawsuit, “and that any use of the trailer for storage, if any storage existed, was subordinate to the trailer’s use as a sign to express political speech.”

In the meantime, the couple used the trailer for storage, and it’s certainly not clear what classification a trailer falls under when it’s used for storage and a political megaphone at the same time.

But the town noted that McCoy had applied for a storage permit four years ago, and that’s what his purpose was all along.

“The town denies the characterization that the article accurately recites why he had the trailer in his front yard,” the town responded. “By way of further answer, plaintiff has previously represented in correspondence to the Town, dated Nov. 3, 2016, that he was keeping the trailer on the property to store tools and materials related to construction.

It continued: “And, later, in correspondence dated May 29, 2018, plaintiff represented that the purpose of the trailer was to store his belongings.”

McCoy tried to meet all of the town’s requirements in order to keep the trailer on his property, Fojo said.

“His principal use was expression of political speech,” Fojo said by phone. “But in an abundance of caution, he sought a storage permit because he stored things in it, and he simply followed the town’s advice.”

It’s not clear if McCoy would have been allowed to display his Trump sign had he changed his permit classification, from storage to sign.

He said the town threatened to fine him $500 per day if the trailer wasn’t moved, which it was in July of 2018, to an acceptable open space in Dunbarton.

That’s when McCoy contacted Fojo, who told his client that his rights had been ignored and he would take the case.

Twenty months later, in March, the $10 million suit was filed, claiming the town was basing its decision “solely on the fact that the trailer depicted ‘TRUMP’ in large letters.”

“He simply followed the town’s advice,” Fojo said. “He’s not a lawyer, but with or without a permit, Mr. McCoy should have the right keep that trailer on his property.”

The trial in U.S. District Court is scheduled for June 2021.


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