New lawsuit alleges Village of Marvin mayor, councilmen harassed, threatened rival mayoral candidate
MARVIN, N.C. (WBTV) - A new lawsuit filed by a candidate who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the Village of Marvin alleges the elected mayor, two newly-elected council members and two members of the planning board threatened and harassed their political opponent because he voiced support for another political rival of the group.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court this week by Christopher Smith, who lost his bid for mayor earlier this month by 20 votes after Pollino, the incumbent, staged a successful write-in campaign at the last minute.
According to Smith’s lawsuit, Pollino’s write-in campaign came after the mayor called and threatened him after Smith publicly supported a write-in bid for the village council by Mary Shkut, a political rival of Pollino’s.
Efforts by Pollino and others to keep Shkut from taking a seat on the village council last year have been the subject of several stories from WBTV and others and resulted in a separate lawsuit.
In his lawsuit, Smith—who was running for mayor unopposed—said he got a call from Pollino after he publicly announced his support of Shkut, just days before the election.
“During the call, Defendant Pollino—the Village Mayor—told Plaintiff—a candidate for the office of Village Mayor—to rescind his support for Mary Shkut,” the lawsuit said. “During the same call, Defendant Pollino told Plaintiff that if Plaintiff did not rescind his support for Mary Shkut, that Defendant Pollino would conduct a write-in campaign for reelection.”
According to the lawsuit, Pollino went on to suggest he would blackmail Smith if he did not renounce his support for Shkut.
“Finally, during the same call, Defendant Pollino threatened to fabricate a personal scandal involving Plaintiff if Plaintiff would not rescind his support of Mary Shkut. Specifically, Defendant Pollino insinuated such threat by saying, “You need to give it up, because . . . maybe there was a woman . . . maybe you were at the club and you were both drinking and flirting . . . or maybe you were alone in a room with her,” the lawsuit said.
The next day, after his phone call with Pollino, Smith was ambushed outside village hall by Pollino and three others after a meeting of the planning board, according to the lawsuit.
“When Plaintiff got outside to the parking lot, Defendants Pollino, Marcolese, Lein, and Lavelle surrounded Plaintiff and impeded his path to his vehicle, such that Plaintiff was trapped between the Defendants, a minivan, and a flagpole,” the lawsuit said.
Smith described the scene outside village hall in an interview with WBTV.
“These guys surrounded me and started berating me for what was really just an expression of my opinion,” Smith said.
“Here I am, standing on the steps of village hall, being berated, belittled, insulted, screamed at violently – one of the guys was up in my face, pointing his finger in my face calling me names. I was horrified!” Smith continued.
According to his lawsuit, Smith left the encounter—which took place on the even of the election—frightened and shaken up.
The lawsuit claimed Smith considered not campaigning the next day but, ultimately, he went to the polls on election day.
In his lawsuit, Smith claimed the harassment continued the next day at the polls, as his political rivals took steps to block Smith from talking with voters as they walked into the polls and even tried to appear as though they would run him over with a car.
“As Plaintiff stood greeting voters in the parking lot, Defendant Jones, a supporter of Defendants Marcolese, Lein, and Pollino, drove his vehicle in Plaintiff’s direction, forcing Plaintiff to move for fear of being struck by the vehicle, which was moving at a speed higher than reasonably safe for the parking lot,” the lawsuit said.
WBTV sent multiple emails and made multiple calls to Pollino and an attorney representing the defendants seeking comment for this story. None of the calls and emails were returned.
In addition to filing the lawsuit, Smith has also lodged an election protest with nearly identical allegations to what’s contained in the lawsuit calling for a new election.
That protest will be heard on Monday by the Union County Board of Elections.
Smith said he has no confidence in the elected leadership of the Village of Marvin.
“This is what happens when the government of a small village is run amok,” Smith said. “You can’t express an opinion in Marvin and this is what happens.”
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