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October 10, 2012

McDougall fights ban from Town Hall

Town official arraigned in obstruction case

SALEM — A judge will decide if town Budget Committee and Zoning Board of Adjustment member Patrick McDougall will continue to be banned from Town Hall.

McDougall, 37, was arraigned yesterday in 10th Circuit Court or allegedly interfering with emergency personnel who tried to take his wife to the hospital June 26.

He also faces witness tampering, criminal threatening and disorderly conduct charges in a separate, but related, case stemming from his arrest in late August.

Although McDougall pleaded not guilty to an obstructing government administration charge July 30, that Class B misdemeanor charge was dropped yesterday.

He now faces a Class A misdemeanor offense of obstructing government administration following his second arrest.

McDougall pleaded not guilty to the amended charge, for which he could serve up to a year in jail and pay a $2,000 fine if convicted, according to prosecutor Jason Grosky. He did not face any jail time if convicted of the Class B charge.

But much of the hearing before Judge Michael Sullivan focused on whether McDougall should be allowed to visit Town Hall, where Grosky said town employees are in fear of what he could do.

“Mr. McDougall, at least allegedly, has been a bully, and bullied town employees for some time period,” Grosky said.

McDougall is only allowed to attend Budget Committee and Zoning Board meetings at Town Hall. He is prohibited from visiting the building at other times to question town employees — a restriction defense attorney Neil Reardon said violated McDougall’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

“As an elected official, he has the right to speak up and talk about town affairs,” Reardon said. “We think that is unfair. It is unduly restrictive.”

Sullivan said he would take the issue under advisement and decide whether the ban would remain in place. McDougall’s $2,500 personal recognizance bail was not altered. A trial on the obstruction charge was scheduled for Dec. 10.

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