Lengthy legal battle of Rockland jewelers continues

Posted May 22, 2012, at 8:35 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 2-year-old legal battle between two competing downtown jewelry stores over what was once a business partnership continued Tuesday in Rockland District Court.

A disclosure hearing was scheduled Tuesday in which there would be testimony on how George Holmes could collect a judgment ordered to be paid to him by Heidi L. Stevens and Freedom L. Hamlin.

As the hearing was set to begin, attorneys for both sides said a settlement had been reached. Paperwork later filed with the court stated that the details would be filed with the court within a week.

Justice Andrew Horton had ruled in September in the Business and Consumer Court in West Bath that Stevens and Hamlin owed Holmes $28,276. The judge also dissolved the corporation, known as By George Jewelers Inc., in which the three had been partners.

Holmes continues to operate under the name By George Jewelry on Main Street. Stevens and Hamlin continue to operate Freedom Jewelers, which the women opened after they left the By George Jewelry store.

The dispute has been in the court since 2010.

Holmes has run By George Jewelry since 1981. In 2001 or 2002, Stevens began working at the store after being a customer. Hamlin, Stevens’ daughter, later joined the business, making jewelry.

Court papers show that in 2003, Holmes wanted to reduce his time commitment to the business and considered selling it. Stevens and Hamlin asked if they could buy into the business.

In 2004, the parties reached an agreement that each would become a one-third shareholder in the new corporation By George Jewelers Inc. Under the agreement, Holmes would retain ownership of the building where the store is located.

Justice Horton’s ruling in September found that in early 2010, Holmes decided he no longer was willing to remain in the company with Hamlin because of some type of personal dispute. There were discussions of either Holmes buying out Stevens and Hamlin or the two buying out his share of the business. Nothing came of those talks.

On the evening of April 30, 2010, Holmes removed a considerable portion of the store’s inventory, according to the court papers. He maintained that the items he took were things that were not part of the corporation. He left a handwritten note to Stevens indicating that he was resigning as an officer and director effective immediately.

Stevens called the Rockland Police Department but the police decided the matter was a civil dispute and did not issue any summonses.

Holmes, through his attorney, offered to buy out only Hamlin’s share for $5,000 or for the corporation to pay off a $68,594 loan and pay him one-third the value of the assets of the corporation. The women declined both options.

On May 27, 2010, Stevens and Hamlin packed up nearly everything the plaintiff had left in the store including display cases and inventory, according to the court papers. They then set up shop across Main Street, calling the shop Freedom Jewelers.

Horton concluded after hearing claims and counterclaims that Hamlin and Stevens owed Holmes $28,276 for their share of the corporation’s debt and some assets.

Judge Joseph Field ruled in February in small claims court in Rockland that five paintings by William Thon, an easel once owned by Thon, a 2006 Harley-Davidson motorcycle and some valuable gems owned by Stevens could not be sold until the judgment was paid. Field ruled that if the judgment was not paid the items would have to be auctioned off by June 18 with the proceeds going to Holmes.

Attorney Patrick Parson, who represents Holmes, said he could not discuss the case without the consent of his client. Telephone messages left Tuesday afternoon with attorney Steven Peterson, who represents Stevens and Hamlin, were not returned.

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