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Man building addition to Waterford home sues town in state and federal courts

By Johanna Somers

Publication: The Day

Published July 14. 2013 4:00AM   Updated July 14. 2013 2:39PM

Waterford - The owner of a house on Oswegatchie Road is suing the town in state and federal courts over the handling of permits and inspections that he says led to an illegal search.

Adam McNiece of East Lyme, who is a building contractor, is seeking more than $450,000 in damages and attorney's fees in a federal civil rights case. He is also suing in state Superior Court for more than $15,000.

The permit and inspection disagreements arose during the building of a second-story addition at 184 Oswegatchie Road.

According to the suit filed in federal District Court in New Haven in August 2011, McNiece alleges town officials mailed him a photograph taken from the inside of the house at 184 Oswegatchie Road without any explanation. The lawsuit claims this is evidence that Waterford officials searched his home illegally. He is represented in the case by attorney Paul Spinella of Hartford.

"The search of McNiece's home, with malicious intent, without prior warning, without consent and while McNiece was away, was unreasonable and illegal," according to court documents.

McNiece's suit makes several other complaints of unfair treatment. All were dismissed except the claim of unreasonable search as a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

The town was removed from the federal lawsuit last August. The court ruled to remove the town "because it is unclear from the face of Mr. McNiece's amended complaint which of the defendants was involved in the violation" of entering the house.

Town officials including First Selectman Dan Steward, building official Frank Hoagland, assistant building official Steve Cardell and former planning director Thomas Wagner are still listed as defendants.

In December 2012, McNiece filed a lawsuit against the town and town officials in state court alleging that officials engaged in "bizarre" conduct that delayed his ability to obtain permits to renovate the property.

That lawsuit alleges among other complaints that town officials unlawfully entered his property and took photographs and that they retaliated against him for bringing the federal lawsuit. McNiece is representing himself in the state case.

McNiece alleges that town officials followed him around to job sites and attempted to intimidate and harass him. On at least one occasion, an official approached one of McNiece's clients and said McNiece did not hold a valid contractor's license, according to the lawsuit.

At a Board of Selectmen meeting last week, McNiece made public comments about homeowner rights which Steward later characterized as inappropriate because of the pending litigation.

Steward said he could not comment on the lawsuit. The town is represented in both state and federal courts by the firm of Ryan Ryan Deluca of Stamford.

j.somers@theday.com

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