Frustration with infested apartment led man to unleash bedbugs at Augusta City Center

Article originally sourced from PressHerald

"AUGUSTA — The 74-year-old man who dumped a cup of live bedbugs in the Augusta City Center last month said he did it because the city wasn’t adequately addressing his complaints about substandard housing. And he doesn’t regret his actions, even though he is now homeless as a result.

“I pulled out the cup and said, ‘Here, help yourself,’ ” Charles Manning said during an interview at a coffee shop Tuesday. “I reached in my bag and pulled out the cup and I opened it up and put it on the counter, just to let (the code enforcement officer) know this is what I had to put up with for four, six months.”

Manning said he now realizes he dumped the bedbugs in the wrong city department on June 2 – mistakenly targeting the General Assistance office instead of code enforcement.

The city quickly closed the building for the rest of the day that Friday and called in a pest-control company to spray it with chemicals. It reopened the following Monday.

Manning later was charged with assault and obstruction of government administration, Class D crimes punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Manning’s reaction to his situation highlights two problems city officials have been working to address in recent years: a lack of affordable housing and some boarding homes and apartments that are infested with bedbugs.

Manning, who said he receives about $900 a month in Social Security payments, described one apartment on Court Street so infested that he avoided sleeping at night, when the pests were most likely to crawl over his bed. He said he was reluctant to inform his landlord of the bugs, fearful that a complaint could lead to his being evicted. But at the end of May, just before Manning moved into a new room on Water Street, he filed several complaints with the city’s code enforcement staff.

Robert Overton, one of the city’s code enforcement officers, said Manning came to City Center to say that his room had a bedbug infestation, and Overton asked whether Manning had notified his landlord.

“We have to give the landlord the opportunity to correct the problem,” Overton said at City Center on Wednesday. Manning said he had told a fellow tenant but not the landlord, fearing he might be evicted.

When Manning returned a week later, he told Overton that he had moved, but wanted to be sure his old residence would be treated. He was carrying a cup of bedbugs he had gathered from the apartment, saying it was his proof of the infestation.

“I don’t blame him for being upset,” Overton said.


Overton called the landlord, Gerry Fleury, who told him that Waltham Pest Control was at the building and was treating it at that moment. Overton then asked Manning if he could dispose of the cup of bedbugs he was carrying.

“I asked if I could have them to dispose of them,” Overton said, but Manning refused. Overton then followed Manning out to make sure he took the bedbugs with him.

Overton said he also contacted the manager of Manning’s new residence to indicate Manning had moved from a place that had bedbugs.

Manning returned several hours later, calling Overton “a snitch.”

“He told me he had been kicked out and that he was homeless,” said Overton, who directed him to the General Assistance office for aid.

Charles Manning describes how many bedbugs were in a container he dumped at Augusta City Center in June. He said he feared that he could be evicted if he complained to his landlord. Kennebec Journal photos by Joe Phelan

There, Manning learned he didn’t qualify for aid because he had another source of income."


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