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Friday, February 3, 2023

ACLU, former city employee files lawsuit against city of Newport

NEWPORT — The ACLU filed a lawsuit this week on behalf of Andrew Cappello, who city of Newport officials allegedly served with a “notice against trespass” in August 2021, barring him from city property.

According to a statement released by the ACLU, on August 5, 2021, Cappello, who is a former Newport employee, was visiting friends at the Prouty Beach Campground in Newport when the city’s Public Works Director approached and accused him of harassing city employees, and demanding that he leave.

Soon after, a Newport police officer arrived and presented Cappello with a notice against trespass which ordered him not to enter upon property that is lawfully possessed by the city of Newport.

The notice allegedly had no explanation for why it was issued or instructions on how to contest it.

When Cappello sought further explanation, the Newport Police Chief allegedly would say only that the Public Works Director had instructed him to issue the notice.

Cappello inquired again, noting that he needed to access Gardner Park and Prouty Beach, to volunteer for his children’s sports teams and for his new job with NorthWoods Stewardship Center.

He says he was told the notice would expire after one year but received no additional information.

When Cappello requested an opportunity to petition the city council to lift the notice, the mayor allegedly refused.

Cappello says he did not enter city property for months and was unable to visit friends at Prouty Beach Campground, and could not perform some of his job duties.

He says he has visited the parks occasionally since the notice’s expiration in August 2022, but says he still fears future reprisal.

The lawsuit was filed against the city of Newport, Travis Bingham, Thomas Bernier, and Paul Monette.

In his complaint, Cappello asserts that his free speech and due process rights were violated when he was denied access to all city property without an opportunity to challenge the notice.

He is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages.

Cappello is a resident of East Charleston.

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