EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 10, 2012

McDougall fights ban from Town Hall

Town official arraigned in obstruction case

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — 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.

McDougall is also prohibited from visiting the Fire Department after a confrontation with Fire Chief Kevin Breen in August. McDougall showed up at Central Station and demanded to speak with Breen, violating an order July 13 that he refrain from contacting police or fire personnel.

That order by Grosky was issued after McDougall refused to allow firefighters to transport his wife, Jane, by ambulance after she called to complain about a severe headache June 26.

When McDougall became argumentative, firefighters called for a Fire Department supervisor and police support. While McDougall argued with firefighters, his wife made a second 911 call, saying she desperately needed an ambulance because of a migraine headache triggered by a sinus infection.

Jane McDougall finally agreed to have her husband drive her to the hospital and signed a waiver, saying she was refused treatment.

Patrick McDougall later said he didn’t want his wife transported by ambulance because they could not afford the potential $800 bill, but would not jeopardize his family’s health.

Jane McDougall and her mother have accompanied Patrick McDougall in court. When his name was called in court July 30, the McDougalls starting walking to the front of courtroom together. But a bailiff said only Patrick McDougall could approach the bench, prompting his wife to return to her seat.

A clerk asked McDougall how he intended to plead.

“My wife and I simply refused an ambulance ride, so I plead not guilty,” he said.

More trouble transpired in the case when a Salem police officer went to the McDougalls’ Tiffany Road apartment nearly a month later. Officer Matt Mackenzie was serving a subpoena to Jane McDougall because she was to serve as a witness for the prosecution at her husband’s trial.

But Patrick McDougall “became very upset” and told Mackenzie the subpoena should go to his lawyer, not his wife, according to a police affidavit.

Patrick MacDougall told the officer his wife was sleeping and blamed MacKenzie for “breaking up his family,” the affidavit said.

While Mackenzie and Patrick McDougall were engaged in heated conversation, Jane McDougall yelled through a window that she was awake. She then came to the door and accepted the subpoena.

Reardon told the judge yesterday he didn’t feel the charges against his client were warranted.

“I think the police overreacted to Mr. McDougall’s dealings with them,” he said.

The confrontation with Breen ensued after Patrick McDougall allegedly asked the fire chief for information about town ambulance bills.

Patrick McDougall was later arrested on three felony witness tampering charges and single misdemeanors counts of criminal threatening and disorderly conduct.

The five charges are expected to be tried together at a later date.

Two weeks after McDougall’s second arrest, the state representative candidate finished last in his Republican primary race. He was one of 12 GOP hopefuls seeking nine seats representing Salem.