GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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September 8, 2011

Auction faced fishermen's suit

Two Cape Cod fishermen have filed a federal lawsuit alleging the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction, founded by the Ciulla family 14 years ago and sold last week, had been "skimming" from the actual sale price of their fish.

Seeking $1 million for "breach of maritime contract," the suit by Eric Hesse and Greg Walinski — both members of the board of the controversial Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association — was filed in U.S. District Court on Aug. 10 by Gloucester attorney David S. Smith.

Smith is the law partner of Stephen Ouellette in the firm of Ouellette & Smith, and Ouellette was listed in the Secretary of State's Corporate Records Division as of May 26 as the agent for Kristian Kristensen, who has acquired the auction from the Ciulla family.

On June 14, Ouellette also filed the incorporating papers as agent for the Zeus Fish Export Co. Inc., also owned wholly by Kristensen.

Neither Smith nor Ouellette would comment Thursday on whether the suit and the auction's sale were connected in any way.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Smith — on behalf of Hesse and Walinski, and Paul Muniz — speaking for the Ciullas, told the Times that they had reached a settlement agreement that would end the federal lawsuit.

Smith said a document to execute the agreement would be drafted and filed in federal court in the coming days.

The attorneys, however, refused to reveal the terms of the settlement; Muniz, asked if "anybody paid money to anybody," said, "we're not going to go into that."

"My clients have filed a lawsuit in a dispute over fees," said Smith, "but after a meeting with the Ciullas, they concluded there was a misunderstanding and the case has been resolved."

Kristensen acquired the keystone business of the Gloucester waterfront last Friday, according to Larry Ciulla, president and CEO of the auction, whose new corporate name is the Cape Ann Seafood Exchange.

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