Judge rules for defendants in Bradford Village Inn case

  • Joseph Torro of Bradford bought a failing bed and breakfast and now wants to open for business, but he says for former owner and town treasurer, Marilyn Gordon, and fire chief Mark Goldberg are conspiring against him. Torro, left, stands outside of the Bradford Inn with his lawyer. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Bradford fire chief Mark Goldberg at his home on Route 114 in Bradford on Friday, April 6, 2018. Goldberg has been named in a lawsuit filed by the new owner of the Bradford Inn. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 4/20/2019 6:50:48 PM

The Bradford Village Inn, a 120-year-old former bed-and-breakfast, will not return to past glory anytime soon after a judge ruled against its new owner, who claimed in a lawsuit that the former owner and the current fire chief were dating and conspired against him to keep the business closed.

United States Magistrate Judge Andrea Johnstone determined last month that Joseph Torro had not shown that anyone violated his right to equal protection under the law.

Torro claimed select board members gave him a false sense of hope then reneged after treasurer Marilyn Gordon, the inn’s former owner, convinced them in non-public meeting not to approve Torro’s request for a tax abatement; and that Torro had been held to tougher fire safety standards than Gordon.

In a reflection that showed how Torro’s life had been affected, he said in his suit that his treatment by Gordon and Goldberg amounted to intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The tension between Torro and defendants Gordon and Mark Goldberg, the town’s fire chief, had been simmering for five years, since Torro bought the inn from Gordon at auction for $258,000. Torro had already made two other offers – both for less than $200,000 – that were rejected by Gordon.

He claimed in the suit the select board had given him the impression that the inn could continue to be run as a bed-and-breakfast.

But Torro said his trouble began immediately after the sale in 2014, when Gordon refused to allow him to continue calling the business the long-established Candlelite Inn without paying for the naming rights. Torro chose to switch the name to the Bradford Village Inn rather than pay Gordon.

Next, Torro installed new electrical wiring, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and new chimney liners, believing his investment would satisfy fire codes and allow him to open as a B&B.

But, Torro said in his suit, Goldberg determined that he could not open the inn because of “all the deficiencies,” even though Goldberg had not yet conducted an official inspection.

At a select board meeting in October of 2014, Torro explained the improvements planned for the inn. Goldberg attended and recused himself from his inspection duties, citing his relationship with Gordon.

That meant the state fire marshal’s office would conduct the inspection. In the final ruling, the judge wrote, “Because of Goldberg’s recusal, Torro theorizes, he was subjected to a stricter level of inspection by the state fire marshal’s office, which resulted in the inn not being given a certificate of occupancy.”

To Torro, that meant he had been treated differently than Gordon. The judge, however, wrote, “He does not allege what standard applied to the inn while Gordon was the owner, and what different standard was applied to him.

“In addition, he does not allege that a single entity applied two different standards. Instead, he alleges that Goldberg discriminated against him by recusing himself from doing the inspection. Under the circumstances, the recusal was eminently rational and reasonable.”

Elsewhere, Torro and his wife petitioned Bradford for a tax abatement, to be considered in the spring of 2015. Torro claimed that the select board was prepared to grant a 50 percent tax abatement on the property, but that was not approved after Gordon objected during a non-public meeting.

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