May 22, 2018
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Rockport architects locked in legal battle

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — A judge has been asked to dissolve a longtime architectural firm in the midst of a legal dispute.

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Knox County Superior Court on behalf of architect Richard L. Bernhard of Camden against his longtime business partner John W. Priestley III of Rockport. The men have operated Bernhard & Priestley Architecture Inc. in downtown Rockport since 2004 and worked as architects for its predecessor company for 19 years.

[UPDATE: Rockport architects settle lawsuit]

Bernhard is asking the court to dissolve the corporation Bernhard & Priestley, order a fair distribution of the assets and impose punitive financial damages against Priestley. Bernhard’s attorney Robert Rubin of Rockport has also asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent Priestley from continuing to use corporate assets and resources in order to open a new architectural company.

During the past several years, disputes have arisen between Bernhard and Priestley which have eroded the personal and professional relationship between the two equal shareholders of the corporation, according to Bernhard’s lawsuit. One of the disputes related to Priestley’s personal conduct with “various individuals” in the community which resulted in the loss of significant business from a key client of the firm, according to the lawsuit.

As a result of the disputes, Bernhard informed his partner that he wanted to retire and that Priestley would start his own firm called Priestley & Associates.

The two agreed that Bernhard’s retirement would occur on April 30, according to the lawsuit.

But the pair could not reach an agreement on the division of corporate assets, according to the lawsuit, with Bernhard saying he wanted a 50-50 split and Priestley demanding a larger share.

Bernhard claims that Priestley began using employees of the firm to start his new business and hired a Web designer for the new business using Bernard & Priestley money.

The corporation’s account has been reduced from $47,000 on April 30 to $39,000 in mid-May, according to the suit.

Bernard wants the court to order the dissolution of the corporation, a fair division of the assets, and unspecified punitive damages against Priestley for his actions, according to the lawsuit.

Priestley, who declined to comment, is represented by attorney Steven Peterson of Rockport.

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