EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 11, 2012

McDougall still banned from Town Hall

By Doug Ireland direland@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — SALEM — A judge has decided that town Budget Committee and Zoning Board of Adjustment member Patrick McDougall will continue to be restricted from visiting Town Hall.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Sullivan ruled that McDougall can only go to Town Hall to attend board or committee meetings. He is forbidden from speaking to any other town employees or officials. McDougall is also prohibited from visiting the Fire Department.

Sullivan’s order came in response to McDougall’s arraignment Tuesday on a charge of obstructing government administration. He was charged with interfering with emergency personnel who tried to take his wife to the hospital against his wishes June 26.

McDougall, 37, also faces three felony witness tampering charges and single counts of criminal threatening and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors, stemming from his second arrest in late August.

After McDougall pleaded not guilty to the obstruction charge Tuesday, defense attorney Neal Reardon argued that his client’s bail conditions should be amended so he could visit Town Hall and be allowed to question town employees. He said McDougall’s First Amendment rights were being violated.

“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.”

Prosecutor Jason Grosky said McDougall should continue to be banned from Town Hall, except to attend his meetings. Town employees say they fear what McDougall could do if he became upset, Grosky said, saying he has “bullied” some in the past.

Sullivan said he would take the defense’s request under advisement, but concluded the previous order would remain in effect. McDougall has been free on $2,500 personal recognizance bail.

He declined to comment on the judge’s order yesterday, referring all questions to Reardon.

Reardon would only say that he and McDougall were unhappy with the ruling. “We are disappointed,” Reardon said.

At the arraignment Tuesday, Reardon said police “overreacted” when they arrested McDougall, who refused to allow firefighters to transport his wife, Jane, by ambulance after she called to complain about a severe headache.

McDougall said he would drive his wife to the hospital himself. He later admitted he could not afford the potential $800 ambulance bill but would not do anything to jeopardize his family’s health.

McDougall was later banned from visiting the Fire Department after a confrontation with Fire Chief Kevin Breen in late August. In that instance, 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 followng the incident three weeks earlier.

He is alleged to have sneered at Breen, but Reardon told Sullivan on Tuesday that sneering does not constitute a crime.

McDougall heads to trial Dec. 10 on the obstruction charge, punishable by up to a year in jail. He could also face a state prison sentence if convicted of witness tampering.