Vincent R. Coccoli, Sr.
Town of Scituate Town Council et al.
Providence County Superior Court No. PC 15-3539 Maureen
McKenna Goldberg Associate Justice
Plaintiff: Vincent Coccoli, Pro Se
Defendants: Patrick K. Cunningham, Esq. Michael DeSisto, Esq.
David M. D'Agostino, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.
Maureen McKenna Goldberg Associate Justice
case came before the Supreme Court on March 6, 2018, pursuant
to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause
why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily
decided. The pro se plaintiff, Vincent R. Coccoli,
Sr. (plaintiff or Coccoli),  appeals from the entry of summary
judgment in favor of the defendants (the town or
defendants). On appeal, the plaintiff argues that
issues of material fact remain which preclude summary
judgment and that he is entitled to a trial on the merits of
his claims. After hearing the arguments of the parties,
examining the memoranda submitted by the parties, and
reviewing the record, we are of the opinion that cause has
not been shown and that this case should be decided without
further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth in
this opinion, we vacate in part and affirm in part the
judgment of the Superior Court.
genesis of this case is plaintiff's persistent yet failed
attempts to develop the Hope Mill Property located in
Scituate, Rhode Island (the property). The plaintiff was a
member of Hope Mill Village Associates, LLC (HMVA). In
December 2006, the Scituate Zoning Board of Review granted
HMVA conditional approval for dimensional relief and
special-use permits to allow for the redevelopment of the
property. One of the conditions required HMVA to obtain
approval from the Scituate Town Council, the West Warwick
Sewer Authority, and the Rhode Island Department of
Environmental Management (DEM) for a municipal sewer
connection from the property to the West Warwick Regional
Sewer System. At a regular meeting of the town council held
on April 12, 2007, the town council voted to approve the
sewer connection, pending receipt of a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) from HMVA. The minutes of that meeting
reflect the vote as follows:
"After lengthy discussion between the Council, Mr.
Robinson and Mr. Geremia, and members of the audience * * *
motion was made by Councilman Salisbury, seconded by
Councilman Collins, and voted by consent agreement to grant
approval of the 40, 000 gallon capacity per day, contingent
upon receiving a document in writing from Hope Mill Village
Associates within 10 days, outlining the specifics previously
"Extend the sewer connections to Hope Sanitary
Associates, Hope Elementary School, Hope Jackson Fire Dept.,
the Police Station, and to upfront the cost of the Town's
portion of the interceptor.
"Any representation made by the Developer regarding the
Town of Scituate, should be accurate and reflect what was
discussed at this meeting.
"Motion made by Councilman Salisbury, seconded by
Councilman Collins and voted by consent agreement to confer
with Coventry and West Warwick to ascertain what their
intentions are regarding this upgrade, and to pursue an
agreement that would share the costs. The contact should be
done by David Provonsil and Legal Counsel."
2007, an MOU was executed between plaintiff and the town. The
MOU was signed by the town council president, contained an
official town seal, and was recorded in the land evidence
records. Under the MOU, plaintiff agreed to "design,
procure approvals for, and cause to construct a new sewer
line * * *."
2010, the property became part of a bankruptcy proceeding;
and, in January 2010, the bankruptcy trustee sold the
property to New England Development R.I., LLC, which filed
receivership proceedings in August 2010. The plaintiff and
two other individuals executed a purchase and sale agreement
with the receiver with respect to the property, but they
defaulted and the receiver terminated the agreement.
Subsequently, plaintiff individually executed a purchase and
sale agreement for the property, but he defaulted again and
the agreement was terminated. In 2014, plaintiff individually
executed a third purchase and sale agreement for the
property; that agreement was also terminated. In January
2016, the Superior Court approved the receiver's petition
to sell the property to BMP, LLC.
August 13, 2015, plaintiff filed a pro se complaint
against defendants, alleging promissory estoppel and breach
of oral contract, breach of confidentiality pertaining to
proprietary information, tortious interference with a
contract, and fraudulent misrepresentation. The defendants
moved for summary judgment on April 20, 2016, arguing that
(1) defendants did not breach the MOU because the town never
approved the MOU and, further, that there was no evidence
that plaintiff suffered financial harm; (2) plaintiff's
claim under § 552a(b) of the Privacy Act of 1974 had no
merit because federal law was not applicable to defendants
and there was no evidence that defendants disclosed
plaintiff's personal information; (3) there was no
evidence that the town council had intentionally interfered
with the purchase and sale agreement plaintiff had executed;
and (4) plaintiff's fraudulent misrepresentation claim
was improper because it was based on the conduct of a
nonmunicipal fire chief, who was not a town employee. The
plaintiff objected to defendants' motion, and for the
first time raised the argument that defendants violated the
Rhode Island Uniform Trade Secrets Act,  G.L. 1956 chapter
41 of title 6. The defendants' motion for summary
judgment was heard on July 11, 2016. At the outset, the trial
justice noted what he characterized as plaintiff's
"All of the claims evolve out of the plaintiff's
efforts over many years to develop, redevelop, the so-called
Hope Mill. The history, recent history of the Hope Mill,
insofar as judicial proceedings are concerned, is checkered.
It has been the subject of receivership proceedings,
bankruptcy proceedings, and receivership proceedings again.
"A somewhat common factor running through it has been
the pro se plaintiff here. In other circumstances, this
[c]ourt has suggested or held that Mr. Coccoli's life is
intertwined, to a very great extent, with his desire and his
efforts to rehab the mill for multifamily residential
purposes primarily, a somewhat monumental task at this
trial justice granted summary judgment in favor of defendants
on all four counts of plaintiff's complaint. He first
addressed the MOU and found that it was not a binding
"The [c]ourt cannot find that that agreement is binding
on the defendants. It was not specifically approved by the
council, it contained no terms; and as a matter of fact, to
this day ...