BOLTON — - Michael Grimaldi cannot escape his past, but he can get out of Bolton.
That's what his neighbors Lori and Thomas Paggioli have been working toward, Grimaldi claims in a federal suit he and his family filed this week. And the town of Bolton has played a role, too, the Grimaldis and their lawyer say.
Grimaldi, 49, is on the state's sex offender registry for a sexual encounter with a baby sitter in 1995, but he and his family put the matter behind them, moving to Bolton to build what they thought would be their final home and base for their flooring business.
But for the last four years, the suit claims, their neighbors — one of whom works in town hall — have waged a campaign of harassment, including, they say, cutting down their maple tree and dumping truckloads of chicken manure near their home, creating a black fly infestation last summer.
Lori Paggioli, 44, faces a breach of peace charge in Superior Court in Rockville for saying to Michael Grimaldi during a boundary dispute last March, "If you so much as look at my kids, I will kill you," witness affidavits say. The court has twice denied her bid for accelerated rehabilitation.
In the suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in New Haven, the Grimaldis accuse the Paggiolis of "extreme and outrageous" conduct that has deprived them of protections under the Constitution and federal and state laws. The suit also names the town of Bolton for subjecting them to "a different standard of enforcement of municipal regulations than that imposed upon any other town residents."
Kathleen Nevins, the Paggiolis' lawyer, discounted the suit. "The complaint is rife with untruths and fabrications and is an obvious abuse of process by this family," she said Thursday.
But Grimaldi, who pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to two years in prison, says their dreams have been dashed. "This house has been our whole heart and soul and we've been tortured for over four years," he says of the property purchased from relatives of the Paggiolis, a generations-old farming family in Bolton.
"We're basically going to escape the town and go forward," he says, but not before he, his wife, Christine, and his young adult children, Kristian and Elise, have their day in court.
The Paggiolis, who live a few houses down and across Birch Mountain Road, raise food crops and beef on a farm next to the Grimaldis' home. Much of the conflict involves a boundary and drainage dispute that has fed a 3-inch-thick file in civil court in Rockville.
Nevins says the dispute is clear-cut, with a survey supporting her clients' stand on where the line is. She says they absolutely are not trying to force the Grimaldis out of town, as claimed in the suit.
"The Paggiolis just want to get quiet title to their property. They just want to live peaceably and they're glad to have the Grimaldis live peaceably as well."
But the Grimaldis say it goes well beyond the property line dispute, claiming they have been subjected to repeated nuisances, such as noisy ATVs revving outside their windows at early hours, fouling the gas tank of their daughter's car and a fireworks bomb exploding on their front porch.
"I don't care what kind of spin these jerks want to put on it, the fact of the matter is that these neighbors of the Grimaldis are a menace and they're committing crimes and they're engaging in unconscionable behavior," says John R. Williams, the New Haven lawyer representing the Grimaldis.
He says the Grimaldis have been dealing with a "pattern of offenses" and cited the Superior Court judge's conclusion, in denying Lori Paggioli's appeal for accelerated rehabilitation, that she might offend again.
State police in Colchester, which covers Bolton, said they are aware of the situation between the neighbors, calling it a "Hatfield and McCoy-type dispute." But police have not been able to substantiate the rash of claims, except for the one against Lori Paggioli.
As for the piles of chicken manure dumped near the Grimaldis' property line, leading to their claims of a nightmarish plague of black flies, illness and uninhabitable conditions, Nevins notes that the field next door is the access to the back fields. "It's all part of being a working farm. That's what they do," she says.
Williams counters, "You don't pile it up on the property line and leave it there for 30 days."
The suit alleges that Lori Paggioli's ties to the selectmen's office, where she works as a part-time secretary, have aggravated the situation and led to economic loss and emotional distress among the Grimaldis. On the job in town hall, she frequently stated in public that the Grimaldis must be forced to move out of town, the suit charges.
"Mrs. Paggioli has been acting with the acquiescence, at least, if not the firm approval, of town officials in Bolton who have been giving aid and comfort to her," Williams says.
The Grimaldis contend the town has pressured them through zoning, wetlands and health codes, first requiring them to install a $25,000 drainage system to address a water runoff problem and recently ordering them to remove the system because of what is draining into a pond on the farm.
"That kind of jerking around doesn't happen to other people and we believe it's motivated by what the Paggiolis are doing," Williams says. "That's why it's in federal court."
The drainage conflict with the town has to do with water runoff not allowed by the permit, Bolton Town Attorney Richard Barger said Thursday. As for the charge against the town's enforcement methods, "That's going to be an interesting burden of proof, and I'll have to see the papers before I can comment on that intelligently."
Bolton town administrator Joyce Stille, who hired Paggioli and wrote a letter of support to Superior Court calling Paggioli "a true friend," said she could not comment on the case until she receives it. But she said the Grimaldis had not sought a meeting with town officials above the staff level.
The Grimaldis, struggling with the costs of legal fees and town-mandated repairs and the distraction of the protracted dispute, are in foreclosure on their house, Williams says. "The combination has been a one-two punch for this family. They'll be out by the fall."
Kristian, 22, whose apartment in the 4,800-square-foot house had a deck with a view, and Elise, 20, have already moved away, partly to escape a seemingly unending situation.
"It started as one thing and now it doesn't have an origin anymore," says Elise Grimaldi, who works in the family flooring firm. "It's about us being in this town — us being in their town." ..more.. by STEPHANIE SUMMERS | Courant Staff Writer