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Federal judge finds no basis for Pittsfield Trump trailer lawsuit

  • 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 Route 107 in Pittsfield, N.H., on Aug. 8, 2016. 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

  • Joe McCoy, Pittsfield GEOFF FORESTER

  • 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

  • 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 columnist
Published: 10/20/2021 5:58:55 PM

For now, a judge has spoken, a town is relieved and a plaintiff remains angry.

Such is life in Pittsfield, where Joe McCoy – a gregarious man with long, wispy blond hair, a sunburned forehead, and no filter when it comes to speaking his mind – displayed a 52-foot semi-trailer at his home in 2016 with “TRUMP!” painted on its side.

His $10 million lawsuit, filed last year, charged his hometown with trampling on his Constitutional rights and discriminatory behavior. He said Trump haters pushed enforcement of a law that forced him to remove his “storage facility.” He said he was targeted, that others in town had storage units the same size as his. Why single him out?

Earlier this month, however, United States District Judge Joseph Laplante found McCoy’s claims to be baseless. He said McCoy did not present any evidence to suggest that the Select Board had treated him unfairly, based on his political stance.

Laplante also struck down the class-of-one, equal-protection claim. Here, McCoy said officials looked the other way when it came to ordinance violations in Pittsfield. Not with him, though.

The judge rejected that as well, writing McCoy “has not met his burdens of production and persuasion to identify similarly situated landowners, demonstrated that the Town treated him differently than these alleged comparators, or proven that the Town did not have a rational basis for its enforcement of the ordinance against him.”

Reached by phone, McCoy declined to comment, saying he preferred to speak to his attorney, Robert Fojo, first. Fojo was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, but he has said he hopes to ask Laplante to reconsider. If that fails, expect an appeal.

The long-simmering feud brings us back, to the line that divided the nation during the Trump Administration and continues to do so today.

Five years ago, I met McCoy and his wife, Linda McCoy, shortly after the buzz had spread around town. The one about the loud and opinionated semi-trailer.

They were both on disability and ran their own yard-sale-like business. They bought items, some found in old storage lockers, and resold them for profit.

Court documents showed that the trailer first appeared on a spacious grassy field near the McCoy home, visible above a crest on a quiet country road, in 2014. It held tools and other equipment for maintenance.

Town law says something that size may be used for storage and nothing else. A permit is required. It expires after a year, at which time, presumably, the unit would be moved to another location, out of neighborhood view.

The ‘Trump!’ sign, painted by Joe’s son, appeared a few months before the 2016 election. By then, officials had already warned McCoy about the requirements involved to keep it, focusing on the permit and one-year window.

McCoy had received more than one extension. A complaint, filed with the board once McCoy’s choice for president had been announced, attracted attention, facilitating the procedure and suggesting to McCoy that this decision was political in nature.

Town officials denied this. The judge backed them.

“McCoy,” Laplante wrote, “offers no evidence to show that the Town did not have a rational basis for ordering him to remove the trailer in 2018. By that time, the Town had allowed McCoy to keep the trailer on his property unpermitted from early 2014 to September 2015, afforded McCoy an extension of his original storage container permit, and granted him a new permit. The trailer remained on McCoy’s property for over four years when the ordinance only allowed storage containers for 12 months.”

McCoy relented. At least he thought he had. His son painted over ‘Trump!’ replacing the name with hot air balloons and an American flag. But when McCoy asked for one more extension, in 2018, this time the board said no.

“By June 2018,” Judge Laplante wrote in his decision this month, “the select board had run out of patience and declined to allow him to keep the trailer on his property. This was a wholly rational decision.”

McCoy sold the trailer. Then, in 2020, he filed his $10 million lawsuit. Fojo told me then that Pittsfield’s Select Board at the time – Carl Anderson, Larry Konopka and Chair 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 judge disagreed. And while McCoy declined to comment Wednesday, he had a lot to say, making it clear that he’ll be heard from again.

It’s just a matter of time.

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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