End of flap? City drops charges against cockatoo owner
About six months after Judge Joel Gersenblatt ruled Harris Avenue resident Lynne Taylor guilty of violating the city’s noise ordinance and issued her a $15 fine because neighbors say her umbrella cockatoo squawks repetitively, Warwick officials dropped charges against her.
The Warwick Police Department reported that withdrawing the case is in the best interest of taxpayers, as city resources were being used in an attempt to enforce the law.
“It was dismissed by the prosecution,” Capt. Christine Kelley said during a brief phone interview yesterday. “There were lots of issues surrounding it, [including] the availability of witnesses and no further incidences. It was just not worth it to pursue.”
Kathy Melker, Taylor’s former neighbor, claims the bird did more than just squawk – she accused Taylor of training the bird to cuss at her. Melker dates Craig Fontaine, Taylor’s ex-husband. Melker learned that the case was dropped Tuesday evening via NBC Channel 10.
During court proceedings, as well as in past interviews, Taylor said the bird was simply saying, “knock it off.” Taylor’s lawyer also argued that the noise ordinance is “unconstitutional” because it doesn’t specify what is exactly considered a violation; the law prohibits residents from letting their pets habitually howl, bark or make other noises.
The story, which first broke in the Beacon mid-August, made national news. A Facebook account was even created for the bird, whose name is Willy. By October, Melker and Fontaine, who formerly lived next door to Taylor and her boyfriend Chris Levasseur on Harris Avenue, moved to Massachusetts to escape what they describe as constant harassment that began when Melker moved in to Fontaine’s home in 2011.
“Craig and I are absolutely thrilled to be away from Warwick, Rhode Island,” Melker recently said. “Warwick didn’t want to pay to keep it going and she just kept paying her lawyer to fight a $15 fine. She still insists the bird doesn’t swear; she puts stuff about it all over the Internet.”
Melker is referring to posts made on social networking sites, plus on the comment section of online Beacon articles relative to the case. She also alleges that on Feb. 25 of this year, Taylor’s friend posted, “Wow... It’s gotta be great getting a new summer place and boat slip on the cape ,, and more Tuna fishing than ever ... So happy for you guys....,” which Melker finds “ridiculous.”
“They are actually putting it on the Internet that her and Levasseur are going to rent a summer home where we live,” Melker said. “If that’s not stalking, I don’t know what is.”
Melker said she is happy to be out of Warwick not only because she no longer has to live next to Taylor and the cussing cockatoo, but also because she thinks the WPD didn’t make a valiant effort to rectify the situation. She said she and Fontaine made “numerous” complaints to the WPD concerning Taylor, and they feel the city catered to Taylor, as Levasseur owns a local service boat yard and dealership, and services Warwick police and fire department boats.
Melker also said Levasseur does not have appropriate permits for his property. In August of last year, Mark Carruolo, the mayor’s chief of staff, said that under a zoning board condition, a small house in the front of Levasseur’s property was to have been torn down or converted into a garage but the city failed to follow up.
“Warwick is just unbelievable – the corruption is unbelievable,” Melker said. “Who knows how many other people in Warwick get away with stuff?”
Taylor, who opposed the ticket in municipal court and then later appealed the ruling in superior court, was contacted for comment but didn’t respond in time for print.