Man in longtime dispute with Readfield accused of harassing city manager and his family

Robert Bittar, seen in 2018, has a long-running dispute with the city that officials say escalated into harassment of City Manager Eric Dyer and his family. File Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Readfield officials say a man with a long-standing dispute with the city harassed City Manager Eric Dyer and his family, prompting Dyer to seek protection from harassment and a temporary restraining order.

This culminated in the recent arrest of 81-year-old Robert Bittar for allegedly breaching a protective order.

Readfield City Manager Eric Dyer, left, talks to Fire Chief Lee Mank during a tour of the Readfield Fire Department’s Harriman Station in 2019. File Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Bittar’s attorney, meanwhile, said he hadn’t harassed anyone and the situation was “a classic example of the government overreacting to squelch the little guy’s voice.”

In a statement posted on the city’s website, the Readfield Select Board states that Dyer, city manager for seven years, has become “Robert Bittar’s singular focus and obsession” and that Bittar’s contempt for the manager has now extended to include the engagement with Dyer’s wife and two young children. They said Bittar had recently purchased a house adjacent to the Dyer family home in Readfield.

They said a harassment protection order, sought by Dyer against Bittar, was granted in court on July 20, but Bittar continued to “aggravate” his behavior.

Bittar was arrested on the morning of Aug. 1, on Old Kents Hill Road, for violating a protective order, according to documents from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.

“We find Mr. Bittar’s behavior reprehensible and it is our duty to protect the City Manager, as we would any employee, from this type of harassment,” the board members wrote in their joint statement. released after the August 3 meeting. . “The Readfield Select Board supports Eric Dyer, and we vehemently reject the involvement of Eric’s wife, children, and home in this unusual vendetta. We intend to protect and defend Eric while this behavior infiltrates the public sector and the private life of the city manager.

The board statement states that Bittar “is always free to engage in the affairs of the town at Gile Hall and is in no way limited to the rights and privileges of a citizen of Readfield”, but “the situation has caused great anxiety and stress, not just for Eric and his family, but for all of Readfield.

Darrick Banda, an attorney representing Bittar, said his client would be exonerated of any wrongdoing.

“There was no harassment,” Banda said in an emailed statement. “Our client is an 81-year-old philanthropist who has done nothing but selflessly devote his time and resources to making Readfield a better place to live. is certainly not someone anyone watching should be afraid of. The dispute has its roots in small town politics. As far as small fiefdoms go, this is a classic example of government overreach attempting to crush the little guy’s voice.

Robert Bittar, seen in 2018, has a long-running dispute with the city that officials say escalated into harassment of City Manager Eric Dyer and his family. File Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Kurt Peterson, a McKee Law attorney representing Dyer, said Bittar walked the line between a long-running real estate dispute with the city and a personal vendetta he brought to Dyer’s home. He said Bittar repeatedly drove and walked near the Dyers’ home, and also sat outside their home staring at their property “for hours, causing, understandably, a great deal of distress and distress. worry”.

“Eric was granted a harassment protection order when Mr. Bittar threatened him after a town meeting by making a gun gesture with his hand,” Peterson said in an email. “Mr. Bittar then flagrantly violated the court order by repeatedly contacting Eric after the order was served on him. He also trespassed on the Dyers’ property after the order was served.

A hearing scheduled for Tuesday at the Capital Judicial Center to consider Dyer’s harassment protection complaint against Bittar was postponed after lawyers for both sides said they expected the hearing to last around two hours and asked that it be postponed until the court had more time, which the judge approved. The judge said she did not yet know when the hearing would take place.

A temporary restraining order, filed by Dyer and granted by the court last week, orders Bittar to refrain from entering Dyer’s property and from cutting trees on his own property along the property line. between their lots, until a disputed property line can be established.

Peterson said Bittar had trespassed on the Dyers’ property at least twice since he bought the adjoining property and threatened to cut down trees on their property and “bragged about his intention to throw parties on the property with loud music, all with the endgame of nagging Eric.

Bittar has long been in dispute with the town over his efforts to use a barn, outfitted as a pub with tables and chairs and a bar, which he built to host music concerts and serve as a gathering place community. He named the barn, where he also lived, “Helen’s Barn” in honor of his late wife. He later sought, also unsuccessfully, to re-zone the area around the property, to one where this use would more likely be permitted. He held a number of free concerts there after he was unable to obtain a municipal permit for public gatherings there.

Bittar unsuccessfully ran for the Select Board this year. He owns the Readfield Emporium, a restaurant and music venue in town. He said in a June post on the Emporium’s Facebook page that it and the barn where he was looking to hold concerts will remain closed.

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