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Charlestown Sues Over Pool Cover

Charlestown — The dispute between the town and former Selectboard member Doug Ring over a $9,000 pool cover has gone to court.

The town has filed a civil complaint against Ring and his business, Ringscape Pool and Spas, alleging breach of contract and unfair and deceptive trade practices. The town alleges Ring accepted a deposit for $6,600 to buy a cover for the town’s outdoor pool but never delivered, or even ordered, the product — and failed to return the deposit.

“In December 2011, Mr. Ring promised to supply a pool cover to the Charlestown Recreation Department at a cost of $9,000,” the town’s attorney Gardner, Fulton and Waugh of Lebanon said in the Claremont District Court filing. “After cashing a hefty deposit, Mr. Ring deceived the town into believing that he had ordered the pool cover from his supplier.”

The town then ordered a cover from a second supplier and demanded Ring return the deposit, “which Mr. Ring refused to do.”

“In effect, Mr. Ring siphoned money from the Recreation Department’s 2012 budget that would have been used to pay for programs and activities for the children and citizens of the Town of Charlestown,” the complaint states. As a selectman, Ring knew the “impact his irresponsible conduct would have on the day-to-day operation of the Recreation Department.”

The town wants the court to order the deposit returned, the $500 difference in price between the cover Ring was to supply and the one the town bought for $9,500 and the cost of additional maintenance and spring cleaning of the pool. Charlestown is also asking the court to triple the damages because Ring allegedly “knowingly and intentionally failed to provide the promised pool cover.”

Ring was a member of the Charlestown selectboard when the board members Steve Neill and Brenda Ferland voted in December 2011 to buy the cover from Ring’s business at a cost not to exceed $10,000. The board has said it did not follow a standard bidding process because the money had to be spent before the end of the budget year, Dec. 31

Reached yesterday, Ring acknowledged he owes the money but also said he has made several attempts to work out a payment plan with the town.

“I gave the town options,” Ring said. “The town had a chance to do the right thing but decided to continue personal endeavors against me. Now they are going to use taxpayers dollars to get me.”

Ring claims he tried to reach town attorney Adele Fulton and Town Administrator Dave Edkin and was ready to make monthly payments but neither got back to him.

“I offered the town money in mid-summer, but now I don’t have any money,” he said. “The facts are I owe $6,600 for the pool cover. I don’t have 10 grand sitting around but I am willing to pay my debt.”

Ring, who was defeated in his re-election bid last March, did not respond when asked why he didn’t simply send the town money if he had it. When the town first threatened legal action, Ring told the Valley News the money would be refunded.

“The taxpayers can rest easy,” he said in September. “The town will be getting its money back. I’m serious, they will get their money back.”

Neill referred questions to the town’s attorney, who was not available yesterday afternoon. In a previous interview, Neill told the Valley News that attempts by the town to get a refund from Ring were unsuccessful.

Ring said he went through personal bankruptcy, lost his house and one business early last year and blamed the town for causing him further financial hardship when the pool cover dispute became public in September.

“They buried me in the media and hurt my business,” said Ring, who plans to hire an attorney to respond to the town’s claims.

According to court documents, the town claimed the following occurred.

In December, 2011, the Selectboard reached an oral agreement with Ring to buy a pool cover and winterizing blower through Ring’s Charlestown business, Ringscape Pool and Spas. Ring sent the town an invoice on Dec. 27 for $9,600 and a day later, the town sent Ringscape a purchase agreement for the two products.

On Jan. 12 a check for $7,200 made payable to Ringscape Pool and Spas was sent to Ring, who cashed it Jan. 18. It covered the cost of the blower, which was delivered, and a $6,600 deposit for the cover.

In March, when the agreed-upon delivery date came and went Town Administrator Dave Edkins and Recreation Director Craig Fairbanks repeatedly asked Ring when the town could expect delivery. Ring told the town in April and May he had ordered the pool from the supplier, Bay State Pools and Spas of Stratham, N.H.

At one point, Ring said he went to Bay State, looked at the cover and found it to be “unsatisfactory and refused to accept it.”

The town then contacted Bay State, which said Ring made a preliminary inquiry regarding a custom pool cover and made a partial deposit to Bay State. However, Ring did not provide complete dimensions of the pool cover and when Bay State contacted Ring for more information, “Mr. Ring never responded to the these follow-up inquiries.”

Bay State cancelled the order and did not retain the deposit.

“After it became clear Bay State was not going to deliver the pool cover, the town demanded that Mr. Ring promptly refund the $6,600 deposit.

“As of the date of this lawsuit, Mr. Ring has not refunded any portion of the town’s pool cover deposit,” the document said.

The complaint states that Ring’s conduct “constitutes an unexcused breach of contract” and his failure to return the money “constitutes a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

In the final count, the town said Ring committed deceptive business acts because he “intentionally misrepresented that he had ordered the pool cover when he in fact had not.”

The town is also asking the court to pay its attorney fees and related costs.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.