LEWISTON, Maine — A sign posted by a landlord publicly insinuating a tenant was a prostitute was illegal, the Maine Human Rights Commission decided unanimously on Monday.
The landlord posted the sign after tenant Amanda Turcotte posted several signs asking her landlord not to enter her Lewiston apartment after she and her landlord, Roland Bisson, butted heads over the apartment, according to the Maine Human Rights Commission investigator’s report.
Turcotte had complained about water pressure, water temperature and a ratlike smell in the apartment, the report stated, and she posted signs that told Bisson to stay out of her apartment unless he had given her 24 hours’ notice.
Bisson made his own sign and hung it above Turcotte’s door in November 2011. It read: “Attentional all Johns Property under surveillance NO PROSTITUTION.”
“The purpose for the sign was to stop all the traffic coming onto the property and parking in front of the barn, which is not permitted. Turcotte has had a large amount of male visitors and traffic in and out of her apartment since she moved in,” Bisson wrote to the Human Rights Commission.
Turcotte rebutted by saying “she is not a prostitute. She does not have a boyfriend. Her son’s father, to whom she is still married, stops by often to see their son” as do many of her friends and family members.
She also said the sign left her humiliated. Several of her friends and family members drove by the sign and called Turcotte to ask her about it.
“She was extremely upset. That night, she had a panic attack and couldn’t sleep at all. The next morning, she went to her doctor and was treated with medication for her anxiety and panic,” the commission’s investigator wrote.
The sign was taken down after a day.
In the human rights panel’s filings, Bisson defended his stance that Turcotte was a prostitute by saying both a tenant and Bisson’s wife, who works near the apartment, saw many cars come and go. He also stated that Turcotte answered the door for one of his plumbers while wearing nothing but a towel, which Turcotte denied in the commission documents. Finally, he wrote that on another occasion his employee tried to clean the apartment area but Turcotte was making “loud erotic noises” that made the employee uncomfortable. Turcotte told the panel that she had been doing tae bo, an aerobic exercise.
The commission documents said the tenant and landlord also had disputes about Turcotte leaving windows open when the heat was set at 100 degrees, which she told the commission she did to aggravate Bisson. They also argued about the number of cars in the tenant parking lot and how those cars were parked.
The vote was 4-0 that there were reasonable grounds that Turcotte was subjected to sexual harassment in housing.