B&B owner files $2m suit against Bradford's fire chief, treasurer linked in romantic relationshipBy MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader
and RYAN O'CONNOR
Union Leader Correspondent
March 15. 2018 10:38AM
CONCORD — A romantic relationship between Bradford’s fire chief and the town’s treasurer has sparked a $2 million-plus lawsuit against them and the town.
Joseph Torro, who purchased the Candlelite Inn in Bradford, filed a federal lawsuit asking for more than $2 million in damages from the town, Fire Chief Mark Goldberg and Treasurer Marilyn Gordon.
Torro alleges that the fire chief and treasurer — now engaged to be married — blocked his efforts to get approvals to operate the bed and breakfast immediately after Gordon owned it.
“The use of government power and influence to stop an ordinary citizen from doing the exact same act that the government personnel themselves were performing mere months before is corrupt, disgusting and shocks the conscience (of) any reasonable law-abiding person,” the 19-page lawsuit said.
Torro is seeking at least $2 million in monetary damages plus unspecified punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
The bed and breakfast, which he renamed the Bradford Village Inn, never reopened.
“My romantic relationship with Marilyn has nothing to do with anything,” Goldberg told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday.
Gordon declined to comment.
Torro said in his lawsuit that prior to buying the property at auction, he received assurances from two selectmen that there weren’t any issues precluding the building from continuing to operate as a bed and breakfast.
Torro bought the property for $258,000 at auction in August 2014 and began making improvements.
Code Enforcement Officer Walter Royal told Torro he foresaw no code issues and that he intended to issue a certificate of occupancy. As Torro and Royal stood outside the inn one day, the fire chief arrived, according to the lawsuit.
“Goldberg was clearly in a state of rage or distress and approached the plaintiff (Torro) and Royal in a manner that any ordinary onlooker would have perceived as threatening and aggressive,” the suit said.
The chief told Torro he couldn’t open the business, citing deficiencies, according to the lawsuit.
Torro “asked Goldberg why the deficiencies did not present a problem that prevented his girlfriend — and the town treasurer — Gordon, from running an ongoing B&B business on the property,” the suit said. “Goldberg did not respond and stormed off.”
On Wednesday, Goldberg said he hadn’t heard about the lawsuit but denied any wrongdoing.
“Isn’t it strange that (Torro) never spoke to the fire chief prior to purchasing the building,” Goldberg said.
“(The buyer) never asked the fire chief, and then there are issues, and now it’s anybody’s fault but their own,” he said.
Goldberg said the inn had been converted back into a residence when Gordon was going through bankruptcy proceedings. When Torro informed town officials he intended to turn the building back into an inn, Goldberg said he explained that it would need to meet current fire code before an occupancy permit could be granted.
The lawsuit recounted a 2014 selectmen’s meeting, where Goldberg said he knew the previous owner, Gordon, and would be recusing himself.
“This was merely an elaborate ruse, concocted by Goldberg and Gordon together, to cause the state fire marshal’s office to inspect the plaintiff’s property,” the lawsuit said. “By creating this ruse, Goldberg and Gordon ensured that the plaintiff would (be) subjected to different treatment than the former owner, Gordon, who was running the property as a B&B while Goldberg lived in the building.”
The suit said Goldberg, with cooperation from Gordon, sent an email to the state fire marshal and “remained actively involved in efforts to harm the plaintiff’s opportunity to run a successful business on the property.”
Torro said Gordon also protested the selectmen’s preliminary decision to grant him a tax abatement of 50 percent, reflecting the property’s decreased value because it wasn’t opening, according to the lawsuit.
“Gordon made a strong objection to the proposal to reduce the plaintiff’s (Torro’s) taxes and she insisted that she lodge her complaint to the selectmen behind closed doors, outside of public view,” the lawsuit said.
“After she did this, the plaintiff’s tax abatement was never granted.”
Goldberg said Wednesday that people should be treated equally.
“I truly believe in consistency and when you shy from that consistency, that’s when you get in trouble,” he said, “and I don’t think the fire marshal’s office treated him any different than anyone else in the same situation.”