Kithes files for restraining order against Cournoyer

Kithes files for restraining order against Cournoyer

Alexander Kithes, left, and Councilor James Cournoyer.
Lawyer: Parties exploring ‘amicable resolution’

WOONSOCKET – A former member of the Woonsocket City Council has filed for a restraining order and other civil measures against a sitting member of the council over what he alleges were “harassing emails and texts.”

Alexander Kithes, who served on the council from August of 2019 to November of 2020, filed for a restraining order against Councilor James Cournoyer on Feb. 5 in Superior Court. He alleges in the complaint that Cournoyer sent him harassing emails and texts and stalked him over a period of several months, leading him to request a no contact or restraining order “to protect myself and my family.”

“They've only gotten worse, especially since I told him to stop the first time,” he wrote about the texts and emails. “When I don’t respond (which is most of the time), he gets angrier and more forceful. I live with my parents and elderly grandmother, and I’m afraid for all our safety.”

Cournoyer spoke with The Valley Breeze about the allegations this week, writing in an email there was “no merit” to the assertions.

“I have never uttered a threatening or hostile word to him. I have never used foul language. I have never sent him harassing text messages. I have merely texted him in response to his prolific posting on social media. Very simply, Mr. Kithes has a wild imagination,” he said.

Exchanges shared on social media by Kithes show a history of tense interaction between the two. In many of them, Cournoyer refers to Kithes as a “phony” or a “hypocrite” and criticizes his views as a progressive Democrat on national and local issues.

Kithes was elected to the council in a special election in August of 2019 and immediately found himself at odds with Cournoyer and many of Cournoyer's allies. A month later, Kithes introduced a resolution denouncing white nationalism that drew pushback from other councilors. It was Cournoyer who introduced changes to the measure denouncing “all forms of human supremacy” and criticized it as a “statement of the obvious.”

“I get it that some people are activists and like to protest and do all that stuff, but where does it begin or where does it end?” Cournoyer said at the time.

Since then, the two have continued to face off on matters before the council, particularly those involving social issues. These included a series of COVID-19 measures proposed by Kithes in April, the makeup of the city’s Racist Policies Review Advisory Board and a possible name change to Dionne Track.

According to the complaint, Kithes said Cournoyer sent him angry or mocking emails throughout their time on the council together. He also said Cournoyer sent similar emails to a 78-year-old neighbor and that his mom stopped coming to meetings after she felt threatened when Cournoyer approached her following a meeting in 2019.

“If you watch meetings, it’s clear that he has had it out for me since I first got elected. I felt uncomfortable about all of this, but I thought that was the nature of the job so I just stressed about it in private,” he said.

Kithes said he explicitly asked Cournoyer to stop contacting him after he lost the 2020 election but that the texts and emails continued. He also claimed Cournoyer was stalking him at his home, submitting records of text messages in which Cournoyer sent him recommendations about lawn mowers on a day Kithes said he was mowing his lawn.

Cournoyer denied the allegations of stalking, pointing out in comments to The Breeze that Kithes lives near his North End home.

“Mr. Kithes lives right around the corner from me on a main thoroughfare – Winter Street,” he said. “I pass his grandmother's house on a regular basis in the normal course. I have never ‘visited his house’ as he alleges. I have never ‘stalked him.’”

Cournoyer also suggested the text messages were in direct response to social media posts by Kithes. Kithes has repeatedly posted about Cournoyer on Twitter and other platforms, often sharing screenshots of Cournoyer’s messages to him with followers. He also uses the platform to criticize political opponents, referring to Cournoyer on different occasions as a “Joe Manchin Democrat” and comparing him to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Mr. Kithes does not believe in civility. And he believes in making people feel uncomfortable and if they don't like it, they ‘just have to get the absolute hell over that.’ Perhaps he should practice what he preaches,” Cournoyer said, quoting from a Facebook post in which Kithes spoke about making elected officials uncomfortable.

Kithes referred all comment on the matter to his attorney, Matthew Provencher. Provencher told The Breeze this week Kithes filed for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in an attempt to have Cournoyer “refrain from a lot of the private conduct that’s been going on.”

The court denied Kithes’ request for a temporary restraining order on Feb. 15, but Provencher said the matter of the preliminary injunction was still open. The preliminary injunction would provide similar restrictions to a restraining order for a set duration of time, he said.

Provencher said the two parties are currently in discussions to try and reach an “amicable resolution.”

“The parties are engaged in discussion to try to engage this matter amicably, and we look forward to a fair and agreed upon resolution at this point,” he said.

The next court date for the matter is on April 16.

Comments

Ok "boys", it's time to grow up. Alex, stop posting about him on social media. Don't open his emails and block his texts on your phone. James, it's time for you to move on - just go about your own life, leave him alone and block him from your own social media. See, problem solved. Stop acting like kindergarteners and move on with your lives.

The former councilman has consistently used his speech rights to falsely accuse, smear and slander honorable citizens with opinions and beliefs different than his. But, when those he insults and accuse respond, he expresses "fear" and outrage, demanding that they be denied their speech rights. What is needed here is a bit more maturity and a little less youthful zeal on matters of opinion, despite the young man's declaration of "matters of fact" and all things he wants changed as an existential crisis.

"We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought."

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

This story does not surprise me. Lets just try and get along!!

He should probably stay off of social media and away from others' houses - and focus on doing his job. Worrying about someone else's personal politics is not in his responsibilities?

I'm wondering how someone can use "opinions" and "beliefs" to slander someone. Slander is a legal term. This is a pretty big accusation by Mr. Ward to claim slander.

The other part I'm wondering about is why did Mr. Cournoyer send all his thoughts to Mr. Kithes privately? If these are nothing to be ashamed of, and if it's just in response to social media posts, then reply publicly.

Counselor Ward correctly points out that Mr. Kithes does not like to have his angry form of free speech opposed or argued with. But Mr. Ward also leaves out that the forum for opposition is not in Kithes' private email or text message mailbox as Counselor Cournoyer should know. Alex Kithes is acting like a petulent man child and James Courtnoyer a bombastic bully. If my sons were acting like this they'd be grounded.

Why is it that Kithes goes on social media and has nothing but negative comments for those he CANNOT work with? It is his way or no way and he 'bullies' those he cannot get to change their minds. There is NO such thing as dialog if your opinion is different than his. He throws temper tantrums and gets extremely loud. Maybe those people need to file a complaint and a RO against him. The two,Cournoyer and Kithes live approximately around the corner from each other so if one is out mowing the lawn how would he not be seen? From what I understand Cournoyer does not have a twitter account and responds to comments that are made on social media to his email because he has no other course of action. I for one am tired of the childish actions of Kithes and would hope that he will STOP!