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Court Finds Kayaker in Contempt

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The owner of a local kayak company already in hot water for operating from property owned by the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank was fined $4,100 last week after a Superior Court judge found him in contempt for violating a previous court order.

In a decision dated Aug. 2, 2001, Dukes County Superior Court Judge Robert A. Mulligan ruled that Eric Carlsen, owner of Martha's Vineyard Kayak Company, had violated a previous court order issued on July 14, 1999, barring him from delivering kayaks to customers at the land bank's property on Sepiessa Point in West Tisbury, which provides public access to Tisbury Great Pond.

In 1999, the land bank successfully obtained a court order to prevent Mr. Carlsen from delivering kayaks to customers at Sepiessa Point after he failed to comply with land bank licensing requirements that restricted weekend access for kayak businesses operating from the property. Mr. Carlsen later defied the injunction and was ultimately held in contempt of court. At that time he was ordered to pay fines and attorneys' fees in the amount of $1,500.

In the latest court action against Mr. Carlsen, the land bank asked the court to find Mr. Carlsen in contempt of court for continuing to deliver kayaks to Sepiessa Point. The court agreed.

Judge Mulligan wrote, "Carlsen's disobedience and violation of the Court's order is flagrant and unequivocal."

Regarding Mr. Carlsen's argument that he was in fact not operating his business but raising money for Ducks Unlimited, a national wildlife group, the court said "his attempt to justify his conduct lacks merit."

Mr. Carlsen was ordered to pay $200 per day for each violation noted in the complaint, for a total of $1,400, and $2,700 in attorneys' fees "on or before Sept. 4, 2001."

The judge barred Mr. Carlsen from entering the Sepiessa property with a kayak "for any purpose, business or personal," and set a fine of $10,000 for any further violations.

James Lengyel, land bank executive director, said the land bank was very pleased that the judge recognized its position.

Mr. Lengyel said the land bank decided to seek relief in court because Mr. Carlsen had continued to violate land use policies developed through an open and thorough public process. Mr. Lengyel said that initially the land bank tried to work with Mr. Carlsen, but he was unwilling to modify his business practices.

"It just wasn't working," said Mr. Lengyel.

In the past, Mr. Carlsen has also run afoul of Edgartown authorities for delivering boats at Wilson's Landing on Edgartown Great Pond. He has argued that what he does is similar to a delivery service such as UPS. In Mr. Carlsen's view, his customers have a right to receive the kayaks, and he has a right to make them, and in doing so provides public enjoyment and use of public properties.

Mr. Carlsen insists he had little warning from the land bank regarding the latest court action. He said the land bank "is elitist" in determining who may have access to the pond.

Mr. Carlsen, who represented himself in court, said he is shocked at the size of the fine and has no idea how he will pay it. He said the experience left him with little confidence that he can mount any appeal without significant and expensive legal help.

"Nobody wins when they represent themselves," said Mr. Carlsen. "It is a big inside joke."

The land bank was represented by Ron Rappaport of Reynolds, Rappaport and Kaplan in Edgartown.


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Martha's Vineyard Kayak Company defied the injunction, (saying) "customers have a right to receive the kayaks, and he has a right to make them.


I added the word (saying) ...

...all the rest is cut and paste from the original post.



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