SALEM — As a public official, Patrick McDougall was known for speaking his mind when it came time to cut budgets and rein in spending.
But yesterday, McDougall’s tendency to speak out — especially on Facebook — nearly got him in more trouble as he serves suspended jail sentences on disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration convictions.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Sullivan instead agreed that the former Salem Budget Committee and Zoning Board of Adjustment member had complied with his orders, even though the prosecution raised questions about McDougall’s Facebook comments.
McDougall, 38, served two days in jail in January and received a 28-day suspended sentence for interfering with paramedics trying to transport his wife, Jane, to the hospital.
She had called 911 in June 2012 and complained of a severe headache. McDougall later said he drove his wife to the hospital himself because they could not afford an ambulance.
McDougall appeared in court yesterday to prove to Sullivan he was making progress and did not need to serve the additional jail time. It will remain suspended for 18 months.
“I was abrasive that night, I was out of line,” he said. “Doing 48 hours in the county prison finally gave me an appreciation that I want to be a better person.”
McDougall told the judge how he has nearly completed his anger management counseling and put in his required 50 hours of community service. He said he worked at the Salem Animal Rescue League, the American Legion and the Salem Recreation Department
“I learned from my lessons and I want you to know that,” McDougall told Sullivan. “I want to be a better father and a better husband.”
The couple have a 7-year-old son.
Prosecutor Jason Grosky agreed McDougall had complied with the judge’s orders, but said he needed to be careful about his comments on social media.
Grosky said Facebook postings prove McDougall is bitter and critical of his sentence and the judicial process.
“While he has done everything that the court has asked him, I would just caution him going forward,” Grosky said. “It shows Mr. McDougall is very loudly upset by the process. It is still a situation where it’s everyone else’s fault.”
Although the Facebook comments were not read in court, postings under McDougall’s name indicate he remains resentful.
In a post from May 27, he refers to the “harsh judicial sanctions” against him. It also says “my freedom was taken away from me.” Another comment from that day says, “I went to jail for nothing.”
A posting from May 28 refers to the “political vendetta and anger and resentment towards me” from public officials.
A comment posted Monday asks his Facebook followers to “keep me in your prayers” as the judge considered his case yesterday.
In a related court case, McDougall also received a 120-day suspended sentence as part of a plea bargain case stemming from incidents last summer when he had a heated argument with Salem fire Chief Kevin Breen over a patient’s right to refuse an ambulance.
He has been ordered to stay away from Breen, the Fire Department and Town Hall.
Two witness tampering charges and a single criminal threatening count were dropped as part of that agreement.
After Grosky mentioned the Facebook postings, McDougall’s attorney, Neil Reardon, told Sullivan that his client has been unfairly targeted by the prosecution.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the court to hear this stuff,” Reardon said. “It is almost like they are trying to punish him into submission.”
Sullivan told McDougall that although he may upset with his sentence, he needed to be careful about what he said. The judge said he believed McDougall had learned a valuable lesson.
“I wish you godspeed and good fortune,” Sullivan said. “It is really important that public officials have humility.”