For the second year in a row, a Plymouth School Committee member has been accused of driving her car at a neighbor in a dispute that has apparently turned extremely bitter.
Police said Margaret Burgess-Kukaroo, 74, was traveling on Boutemain Avenue, the narrow, dead-end street where she lives, on April 2 when she allegedly drove in the direction of the neighbor walking along the road.
The neighbor reported the incident to police around 5:24 p.m., and Burgess-Kukaroo was arrested shortly thereafter. She was charged with violating a harassment prevention order, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and reckless operation of a motor vehicle, police said.
She pleaded not guilty to the charges at her arraignment at Plymouth District Court, and a pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 2, according to the court clerk’s office.
In court records, Burgess-Kukaroo is listed as Margie Burgess, a name many Plymouth residents know as that of a longtime School Committee member who was first elected in 1998. In last year’s town election, held in May, Burgess was one of three candidates who ran unopposed for the committee, finishing in second place with 3,116 votes. In the previous town election in 2009, Burgess topped the committee ballot with 3,326 votes. Her current term expires in 2015, according to the Plymouth Public Schools website.
The criminal charges she is facing stem from an ongoing dispute with a neighbor, according to police, who would not identify the neighbor.
Plymouth police Captain John W. Rogers Jr. said Burgess was accused of swerving her car at the same neighbor last year. She was arrested on March 24, 2012, on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a vehicle, and violation of a harassment prevention order. Those charges were ultimately dismissed, according to the Plymouth District Court clerk’s office.
Court records show that Burgess and a neighbor, Martha L. MacFarlane, had sued each other in a quarrel over a fence Burgess wanted to install between their properties.
Burgess has lived at 16 Boutemain Ave., near the end of the roadway, since 1973, while MacFarlane has lived at 18 Boutemain Ave. since 1971. Located off Summer Street, about a mile from Plymouth’s waterfront, Boutemain Avenue has only a handful of homes. Burgess’s and MacFarlane’s houses sit very close to each other, on what was originally a single tract owned by the street’s namesake, Edward Boutemain. The lot was split up in 1929, but not into equal parts.
According to town assessing records, MacFarlane’s house sits on 0.13 of an acre, while Burgess’s property occupies 1.119 acres. Both houses face the street, but Burgess’s land surrounds MacFarlane’s property on the other three sides.
Documents filed in Plymouth Superior Court show that the relationship between the two neighbors soured through the mid-1990s and reached a breaking point in summer 2010, when Burgess decided to install a fence between her and MacFarlane’s properties.
“Over the last 10 years Ms. MacFarlane has started to use my vacant lot as a garbage receptacle and started placing items there,” Burgess stated in the court filings.
On July 28, 2010, Burgess had MacFarlane served with a no trespass order and a cease and desist order to stop her from leaving trash on Burgess’s property, according to the filings.
Then, on Sept. 23, 2010 — the day the fence was to be installed — MacFarlane struck back with a complaint and civil action in Plymouth Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order to stop her neighbor — whom she referred to as Margery Burgess Koukel — from erecting the fence. The court sided with Burgess a few days later, ruling that she could install the fence.
But the legal wrangling didn’t end there. Court records show that the two sides continued to fight over the right of way between their properties. Then, on Oct. 13, 2011, MacFarlane bought a ranch-style house at 14 Boutemain Ave., on the other side of Burgess’s property, for $145,000. Burgess’s house is now sandwiched in between MacFarlane’s properties.
The court case was eventually settled in February 2013, with both sides agreeing to dismiss their claims. But resentment apparently lingers between the two.
Neither Burgess nor MacFarlane would comment for this story.
Stuart P. Delano, a lawyer who represented MacFarlane in the case, said the civil lawsuit is over. “It’s been resolved,” he said, declining to comment on the current situation.
The lawyer who represented Burgess in the lawsuit, Martin J. Drilling, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
School Committee chairman Dennis Begley did not return a phone call seeking comment.Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.