BELFAST, Maine — A Belmont man has filed a $1 million civil lawsuit against Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum, contending that the city official made defamatory comments about him that resulted in him being jobless and homeless.
Slocum’s attorney has denied the allegations, saying that Jeffrey D. Joslen’s quarrel with the city manager began when his city housing benefit was reduced earlier this year.
“They were applying for a city benefit and they did not like the answer they got,” Slocum said Thursday afternoon. “I respect the fact that people want to litigate. There’s nothing I can do to stop somebody from litigating … He’s entitled to the process. He feels what he feels. It’s part of the cost of doing business: people will challenge you. I don’t begrudge it.”
Although efforts Friday to reach Joslen were unsuccessful, the complaint filed earlier this fall at Waldo County Superior Court suggests that the man’s troubles began in April, when Joslen and Slocum evidently had a disagreement at Belfast City Hall.
Joslen, who is acting as his own attorney, wrote in his affidavit that Slocum told police Joslen had threatened him with a firearm on April 14. The city manager asked that Joslen be escorted by police if he went to City Hall again.
However, in the response to the affidavit that Edward Benjamin, attorney for Slocum and the city of Belfast, filed on Oct. 31, the city manager merely told police that Joslen had used the word “gun” in city hall.
“This whole thing seems to have stemmed from him having his benefits cut back and he’s angry about it,” Benjamin said Friday evening in a telephone interview. “He comes into City Hall with these complaints. He links that somehow to Joe Slocum.”
Police officials said Thursday that they couldn’t comment on an ongoing legal case.
Meanwhile, life circumstances apparently deteriorated for Joslen, who attributes that fact to Slocum. In his affidavit, he said his efforts to open a homeless shelter in Belfast were hindered by the city manager and that Slocum asked his landlord to evict him.
Benjamin denied this allegation in the response.
Joslen, who was working in May to repair a boat for Paul Naron of Belfast, contends that Slocum spoke to Naron and told him that Joslen “tried to ‘hustle’ the General Assistance program of the city for a free ride and got caught.”
Naron decided to fire Joslen after the city manager spoke to him, Joslen wrote.
Slocum, however, said that while he spoke to Naron, he denied saying anything that would cause him to terminate Joslen’s employment.
“The … quarrel has been an ongoing issue for approximately one year, and no other words can be used to describe the time period other than pure misery,” Joslen wrote in the affidavit. “This plaintiff is not a dangerous person or vigilante.”
He is asking the court for $1 million in damages — $500,000 because of maliciousness, defamation and malice, and $500,000 for mental stress, attorney costs and punitive damages.
Benjamin said that municipal employees have many legal protections from people filing this type of lawsuit.
“It’s all just made out of thin air,” he said of Joslen’s litany of complaints. “So if I file summary judgement, that’s what we’ll be asking the court to decide.”