Yard Boss owner sues Mattapoisett officials over defamation allegations

Apr 21, 2016

After strong words from Mattapoisett Conservation Commission Chair Bob Rogers last year, Yard Boss owner Todd Rodrigues has filed a $250,000 defamation lawsuit against Rogers and Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold.

On numerous occasions last year the board discussed the landscaping company’s withdrawal of water from the Mattapoisett River for hydroseeding, something that several members found questionable.

On Sept. 28, 2015 new member Trevor Francis said he noticed Yard Boss employees taking water from the river at the herring weir. He said the guys were moving “very quickly” and “They knew they were doing something wrong.”

The area, owned by Fairhaven, has apparently been a source of concern for that town as well for some time.

“It seems like Yard Boss is not getting the message that this is not an activity that is allowed nor is it something that they would be able to get permission for,” said Rogers.

He added that the suction hose could cause dangerous materials to backflow into the river.

“They need to come to us and show us why you think you have a right to do this,” Rogers said.

Several letters were sent to Rodrigues, both from the Town of Mattapoisett and the Town of Fairhaven, but Rogers admitted that without a bylaw there is no prohibition against taking water from waterways.

Still, at the Oct. 27 meeting, Rogers called the company “shameless” for drawing water after receiving a photo from the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee that showed a Yard Boss truck again pumping water from the herring weir.

“Obviously the Mattapoisett River Valley people are not happy,” said Leidhold.

“We could do the stop sticks for the tires,” said Rogers.

Vincent Furtado, Fairhaven’s Department of Public Works superintendent, told the commission that he has received many complaints over several months about the water withdrawal, but other than erecting a sign saying no one is authorized to remove water, there was not much that he could do. A bylaw is in the works, however, that is expected to go before Rochester, Mattapoisett and Fairhaven town meeting voters to give the towns more control.

Rodrigues himself attended the commission’s Nov. 23 meeting, saying that he checked with the Mattapoisett Police, who told him he was not under any violations. He said his hose prevented backflow and that 10 years ago he got a verbal confirmation from Conservation Commission member Carmelo Nicolosi that he was allowed to draft water except during the spring when herring are running.

He also said the Department of Environmental Protection allows for the withdrawal of up to 100,000 gallons of water per vendor per day from any water source.

The Yard Boss owner called Roger’s public statements “unprofessional” and said they were “slander” against his company.

“You, as an individual, have crossed the line as a member. Your lack of research and due diligence is appalling,” said Rodrigues.

Rogers responded that as Yard Boss is withdrawing from a “resource area” covered under the Wetlands Protection Act, that he must get a permit.

“Your previous board told me I could do it,” Rodrigues responded. “Don’t paint me as a bad guy. You’re out of line. You crossed it with me. You’re gonna see ‘shameless.’”

Now, almost five months since that contentious meeting, Rodrigues is making good on his words.

A statement released by his attorney, Michael Franco, reads: “Todd Rodrigues, owner of Yard Boss, hopes to discourage such careless conduct by those who would abuse their powers as government officials with no regard for the potential harmful effects on responsible businesses and individuals.”

The lawsuit has been filed with the Plymouth County Superior Court.

Town Administrator Mike Gagne said the town's attorney and liability insurance company will be looking into the issue. Rogers said he has not yet received an official copy of the suit and so declined to comment.