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Toyota dealer files defamation suit against Portsmouth city councilor

Union Leader Correspondent

December 06. 2017 9:52PM
Toyota of Portsmouth owner James Boyle, left, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Portsmouth City Councilor M. Chris Dwyer. 

BRENTWOOD — Portsmouth City Councilor M. Chris Dwyer has been hit with a defamation suit filed by a Portsmouth Toyota dealer over statements she made about him and his business during her recent bid for reelection.

James Boyle of Rye filed suit in Rockingham County Superior Court last week alleging he and his business were defamed by Dwyer when he claims she made “numerous false factual statements” that could dissuade customers and potential customers from doing business with him.

Boyle is the majority owner of Minato Auto LLC, which operates Toyota of Portsmouth at 150 Greenleaf Ave.

“The statements cast Mr. Boyle in a false and unfavorable light and caused damage to his personal reputation as well as his business reputation. In addition, they were designed to ‘poison’ potential electees to the City Council concerning various disputed issues between Mr. Boyle and the city of Portsmouth,” the suit said.

The suit describes Boyle as the “face” of the dealership and said the public “closely identifies” him with the business.

Boyle won a $3.57 million jury verdict against the city earlier this year for lost profits due to a city-owned sewer line at the back of his dealership property that he claimed had caused damage and prohibited expansion.

The city is still at odds with Boyle, who claims there were errors in the two-week trial and that verdict should have been more than $10 million.

The city also filed a notice in December 2016 that it was taking about a third of his property around the sewer line by eminent domain. Boyle and the city continue to dispute the land-taking issue and the amount of compensation.

According to the suit, Dwyer was involved in many of the discussions on the sewer line lawsuit and the dealership property as a city official and voted for the land taking.

“Throughout the years in which Mr. Boyle tried to develop his property, Mrs. Dwyer has always been antagonistic towards Mr. Boyle, including publicly stating that one of his projects made her sick when she saw it even though it was lawfully approved,” the suit said.

Dwyer did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment on the suit, which asks the court to award damages and attorney’s fees to Boyle and Minato Auto.

While running for reelection to the City Council this year, Boyle’s suit alleges that Dwyer made “many false factual statements concerning Mr. Boyle or his property in connection with her campaign.”

The suit said some of her responses to questions posed on a candidate survey on related to Boyle and his property were “false, defamatory and intended to cast Mr. Boyle and his business in a negative light.”

One example cited in the suit was a comment she made when asked if she felt the council should have settled with Boyle for the amount he requested. Dwyer wrote “certainly not,” and then stated that he bought a building on wetlands that was sinking and that he has been “trying to get taxpayers of the city of Portsmouth to pay for his apparent mistake through filing various lawsuits.”

She also wrote that the wetlands and sewer lines were clearly marked on the deed for the property.

The suit included a copy of a letter from Boyle’s attorney, John Kuzinevich, that was sent to Dwyer dated Oct. 31 expressing concerns about some of her statements that he insisted were factually false and misleading.

He wrote that her statement about trying to get the taxpayers to pay for his mistake was “confounding and libelous.”

“Mr. Boyle made no mistake in buying the site. He transformed it into a successful dealership and would expand but for the city’s mistake concerning the sewer line and its continual vendetta against him to prevent development,” the letter said.

Kuzinevich also wrote that there had been a dispute about the extent of wetlands on the property, but the jury determined that any wetlands were created by the city’s sewer line.

He wrote that there has been “absolutely no evidence that the building itself was situated on wetlands.”

Kuzinevich also insisted that there is no evidence that the building was sinking and disputed her claim that the wetlands and sewer lines were clearly marked on the deed.

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