A Superior Court judge has ruled that two former Monmouth selectwomen broke the law when they co-opted the business brands of two men with whom they reportedly were feuding.
Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy determined Sharon Wing and Colleen Fournier, and the company they founded, Hrd Knx Academy, violated the law and potentially damaged the businesses owned by Monmouth residents Martin Bumann and Timothy McDonald.
Bumann and McDonald, a current selectman who served on the board with both Fournier and Wing, sued the women after they copyrighted names and marks that were nearly identical to those used for years by Bumann’s painting business and McDonald’s computer business.
Court documents filed by Toby Dilworth, the attorney representing Bumann and McDonald, outlined six specific complaints against Wing and Fournier and sought a summary judgment on each, which means the evidence is so convincing that a jury trial is unnecessary.
Murphy granted that motion Jan. 11, which ended the case except for determining damages. Murphy will make that decision after a yet-to-be-scheduled hearing.
“We’re pleased the court has found the allegations in our complaint were well-founded,” Dilworth said. “We look forward to a hearing on damages.”
Neither Fournier, who has moved out of state, nor Wing could be reached for comment on Thursday.
Bumann, owner of M.V.B. Painting, and McDonald, owner of TMAC Computers, joined forces in October after filing suit individually early last year. The complaint alleged that Fournier and Wing formed Hrd Knx Academy in July 2011 and registered the business marks used by Bumann and McDonald for more than a decade. The women then reportedly took steps to prevent Bumann and McDonald from using the marks. One of those attempts included sending letters to Monmouth Fair organizers and to officials at Western Kennebec Economic Development Association, claiming trademark infringement and demanding the organizations stop advertising McDonald’s business.
“After many years of owning, operating and advertising businesses in Maine, (Bumann and McDonald) now face the prospect of not being able to advertise at all because of (Wing’s and Fournier’s) deceitful conduct,” Dilworth said. “Defendants’ actions were malicious attempts to disrupt Mr. McDonald’s business and harm his business reputation.”
Dilworth said in court documents that move was in retaliation for Bumann and McDonald’s vocal opposition to Wing and to Fournier’s husband, Dennis Fournier, during their run for Board of Selectmen.
Bumann and McDonald independently published letters in a local paper criticizing the Fourniers and Wing and advocating for alternative candidates, Dilworth said. Neither Dennis Fournier nor Wing was voted onto the board. Colleen Fournier and Wing formed Hrd Knx Academy and registered the marks a few weeks later.
“The dispute concerns local politics and the use and registration of certain trademarks and service marks,” Dilworth wrote in court documents.
Wing was listed as president of Hrd Knx Academy, which she said would have provided painting and computer services, and filed the paperwork to register the marks with the state.
In a deposition given in November, however, Wing said Fournier paid the copyright fees and was responsible for making most of the decisions, including developing the name and logos. Wing acknowledged in the deposition that the marks were similar to those used by Bumann and McDonald.
“I was president in name only,” Wing said. “That’s why later on we switched. I did not want to be president.”
Wing served on the Board of Selectmen for nine years until June 2010, when she opted not to seek re-election. Colleen Fournier was elected in June 2010 and resigned from the board in February 2012 after nearly two tumultuous years that included an allegation of assault against a fellow board member. Police investigated the allegation and did not press charges.
Fournier’s letter of resignation blasted other board members and their oversight of the town.
“The total experience of contempt and disrespect exhibited toward me and the community by fellow board members has emphasized the lack of integrity held by the board,” Fournier wrote. “There has been unethical behavior, lack of moral character and non-professionalism on the part of some board members.”
The Fourniers left their Monmouth home and moved to Summer Street in Augusta. They have since moved to Fountain Hills, Ariz., Dilworth said, but Colleen Fournier refused to provide Dilworth with a mailing address, repeatedly hanging up on staff members who called and then failed to show for a November deposition.
“She did not appear and didn’t give a reason she couldn’t attend,” Dilworth said. “She simply chose not to attend.”
Craig Crosby — 621-5642