Town suing embattled farmer over unpermitted 'bunkhouse'

Ireland steps down as CEO of farmer veterans organization
By Ethan Andrews | Jul 08, 2018

Swanville — A farmer who faces animal cruelty charges after Animal Welfare Agents exhumed the carcasses of a dozen pigs that were allegedly malnourished and shot before a planned inspection is being sued by the town for violating building ordinances.

In documents filed at Waldo County District Court, the town of Swanville alleges that Jerry and Emily Ireland built a "bunkhouse" on their Nickerson Road farm without a construction permit, which is required for new structures with floor space greater than 100 square feet or value exceeding $5,000.

The complaint goes on to allege that the Irelands ignored notices of violation and advice from the town's code enforcement officer. Additionally, the town charges that someone was living in the building, which had no running water or wastewater disposal system.

In a formal reply citing the individual points of the town's complaint, the Irelands acknowledged that the code enforcement officer sent them a preliminary violation letter for the bunkhouse, but they denied the other allegations. Jerry Ireland did not return a call seeking comment. Ireland is representing himself in the case, according to his attorney Hunter Tzovarras, who said in an email that he filed the response on the Irelands' behalf.

"In short, it is my understanding Mr. Ireland had received a permit from the town for the bunkhouse and was in compliance with town ordinances," Tzovarras said.

Ireland, an Army veteran, recently stepped down as chief executive officer of United Farmer Veterans of Maine, citing negative the media attention from the animal cruelty charges, which he denies. UFVM is a nonprofit organization that aims to help Maine veterans through agriculture. In an op-ed submitted to several statewide newspapers, but unpublished according to Ireland, he blamed his legal troubles on a harassing neighbor and "group of local vegan activists." Ireland said he hopes to return to the organization in six months.

"I will deal with this after my name is cleared," he wrote, "in the proper manner — through the court system, not the court of public opinion."

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