washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Virginia

Crying Foul From the Rooftop

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 4, 2004; Page SM02

The angry letters went unanswered. Protestations at a Town Council meeting were also unsuccessful. So Paul Messinese said he took the logical next step.

The 37-year-old Chesapeake Beach resident climbed onto the roof of his house early Sunday, vowing not to come down -- even to sleep or use the bathroom -- until after voting in the town election ended at 7 p.m. Tuesday. His purpose was spelled out on the 17 tan-colored signs next to his makeshift bed on the roof.


The Calvert County Health Department will offer flu vaccination clinics for high-risk people tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday. (Jacqueline Malonson -- Washington Post)

Full coverage of the Nov. 2 elections:
RESULTS: D.C. | Maryland | Virginia

_____Live Discussions_____
Transcript: Vaughn Ververs, editor of the Hotline, discussed the 2004 election.
_____Graphics_____
Washington in Red and Blue: Compare how area residents cast their votes in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

_____Multimedia_____
Photo Gallery: Election Day in Washington.
Video: Area voters flock to the polls.
Video: E-voting's impact on this year's election.


"I WILL STAY ON MY ROOF UNTIL TUES TO MAKE PEOPLE AWARE OF HOW MAYOR DONOVAN HAS TREATED MY FAMILY," the signs read. "WHY DID HE TREAT US THIS WAY? WHO WILL STOP HIM FROM TREATING YOU THIS WAY?"

Messinese, a sheet metal worker, said the town owes him $4,500 for damage caused by a sewer overflow in December 2002. He said the town had begun to reimburse him when Mayor Gerald W. Donovan found out about the incident and stopped the payments.

"The mayor didn't care about me," said Messinese, crouching on the edge of his roof Monday. "The way he treats people is just wrong."

Donovan said he could not comment on the matter because it might end up in court.

The publicity stunt came in the midst of the town's first contested mayoral race in 16 years. Donovan, who had not faced an election challenge since 1988, spent the two weeks leading up to Tuesday's election stumping hard to beat his opponent, Joseph Wayne Johnson.

"It's definitely been the talk of the town," said Chesapeake Beach council member Pat "Irish" Mahoney as Messinese stood on his roof and waved an American flag.

Drivers slowed as they approached the house and gazed at the man on the roof and a display in front of his house that showed photographs and letters explaining his dispute with the town.

Messinese also posted a blue "JOE JOHNSON FOR MAYOR" sign on his roof, although he said he was expecting Donovan to prevail at the polls.

Still, he thought his rooftop protest would force Donovan to reimburse him after the election.

"I bet you he will take care of it," he said. "He wouldn't dare say no now."

Living and sleeping on the roof isn't as hard as it might seem, he said. His wife and daughters bring him turkey and bologna sandwiches. A one-liter Coke bottle serves as a makeshift urinal.

Even nature seemed to be smiling on the endeavor, he said.


CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company