February 27, 2001

MFS Director Urges Woodlot Owners to Get a Written Contract Prior to Cutting

CONTACT: Carlos Diaz, Assistant Attorney General 207-822-0498

Department of Conservation's Maine Forest Service Director Thomas C. Doak and Attorney General G. Steven Rowe today announced a Consent Decree and Order prohibiting two central Maine loggers from engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices, and requiring payment of $10,000 in restitution. The Consent Decree and Order settles a lawsuit in which the State claimed that loggers Michael G. Davis of Sangerville and Carl Vainio of Abbot intentionally engaged in unfair and deceptive practices in their business dealings with the owners of 15 separate private woodlots. Fourteen of the 15 landowners do not reside on or near the woodlot.

According to the State's amended claim, loggers Davis and Vainio, owners of logging companies Kennedy Slate Mine Forestry Inc., and Windfall Logging Inc., deceived landowners into granting permission to cut and remove trees by making false representations regarding:

• The value, health and quality of the trees on the land

• The number of trees that would be harvested

• The logging methods that would be used

• The effect that the harvest would have on the appearance and value of the land

Nine of the land owners signed written contracts that granted the loggers permission to cut a large number of trees, relying on spoken assurances that the loggers in fact would cut only a small number of trees. The loggers failed to provide the other six landowners with any written contracts at all. The State, represented by the Department of the Attorney General, also alleged that the loggers paid all of the landowners only a fraction of the value of the wood harvested from the land.

"The Department of the Attorney General is committed to protecting the Maine woods and woodlot owners against illegal practices," stated Attorney General Steven Rowe.

"This case also shows that business people who defraud others will not avoid paying restitution by filing bankruptcy. One of these defendants tried and failed," said Assistant Attorney General Carlos Diaz.

The Consent Decree and Order permanently prohibits Davis and Vainio from making false representations to any land owner concerning the value, health or quality of trees on the land; the number of trees that would be harvested; the logging methods to be used; or the effect that logging would have on the appearance and value of the land.

Most importantly, the Order prohibits the loggers from harvesting trees unless the land owner is represented by a licensed professional forester, and requires a written logging contract containing all of the material terms and disclosing the land owner's right to cancel the contract up to three days after signing it. In addition, the loggers are required to deliver a Notification of Intent to Harvest to the landowner and the Maine Forest Service at least seven days before cutting down any trees. They must also keep all scale slips and other logging records available for inspection until six years after completion of the harvest.

"The vast majority of Maine loggers abide by the law. However, as this case points out, a few take advantage of unsuspecting landowners," says Maine Forest Service Director Tom Doak. "I urge small woodlot owners to take steps to protect themselves including checking logger references, having a written contract and calling the Maine Forest Service with any questions before any harvest activity begins."

Ironically, it was Michael Davis who initiated the lawsuit in January of 1997, when he sued the Department of Conservation and six individual employees of the Maine Forest Service, claiming defamation, interference with contractual business relations, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Thereafter, the State filed a counterclaim against Davis and third-party claims against Vainio and the two incorporated logging companies. The Superior Court dismissed all of Davis' claims.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Diaz, who represented the State in this case, expressed his appreciation to the Department of Conservation, the Somerset and Piscataquis County Sheriff's Offices, and Detective Richard Fairfield of the Attorney General's Office, for their combined efforts and cooperation in investigating the complaints of the land owners.