EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 20, 2013

Derry Town Council plans special meeting tonight

Defense lawyers weigh in on charges against town administrator

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — DERRY — Local defense attorneys had differing opinions after Town Administrator John Anderson was charged with indecent exposure and lewd and lascivious behavior on Friday.

Anderson, 50, was charged after police said he made sexual advances toward a DirecTV salesman at his home.

He has been on paid administrative leave since July 12, the day after the salesman went to Derry police to file a complaint. The investigation was handled by state police, concluded Aug. 2 and handed over to Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams for review.

Reams Friday announced there was an arrest warrant for Anderson, who has not yet turned himself in.

The Town Council held a nonpublic meeting Friday and voted unanimously to conduct its own inquiry and to continue Anderson’s paid leave. The council will meet again tonight, again in closed session, but officials have not said whether it is about Anderson.

Defense attorney Mark Stevens of Salem said prosecutors could have a tough time convicting Anderson.

“It’s a tough call,” Stevens said. “He isn’t exposing himself in public. He is in his own home.”

The DirecTV salesman was making random calls in the neighborhood when he stopped at Anderson’s home on Lane Road, according to a police affidavit released Friday.

Anderson waved the salesman into his home, the affidavit said, but the salesman didn’t notice Anderson was fully nude until he was inside the home.

Anderson was charged under RSA 645:1, the state’s criminal code for public indecency.

But defense attorney Don Blaszka of Salem said the fact the alleged actions weren’t in public may not be important.

“You have to look at exactly what the elements of the crime is,” he said. “Just because it might be the title of the statute, doesn’t mean it is what is alleged.”

Anderson is being charged for “knowingly exposing his genitals to another under circumstances that he should have known would likely cause affront or alarm,” according to the affidavit.

“If it had to be done in public, then part of the crime would say that,” Blaszka said.

Defense attorney Patrick Donovan of Salem focused on the word “knowingly” in the affidavit.

“If you knew that the act would be seen by someone else under the circumstance it would cause affront or alarm, then there is a case,” he said. “It’s not like he had just came out of the shower.”

But Stevens said the prosecution could have trouble proving Anderson caused affront or alarm.

“If he answers the door naked and the other person walks in anyway, then it’s arguable that he isn’t causing affront or alarm,” he said.

Stevens said this was an unusual case.

“It’s usually somebody at a rest stop or in a park, or somewhere they can get up and expose themselves, like a parking lot,” he said.

Anderson has not been available for comment since he was put on leave last month.

Yesterday, Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau said the Town Council had the right to fire Anderson under the town charter.

“It says the administrator shall host the pleasure of the Town Council,” Budreau said. “If he isn’t at the pleasure of the Town Council, then they can remove him.”

Section 8.4 of the town charter reads, “The administrator may be removed by a majority vote of all members of the Town Council as herein provided. The Town Council shall adopt a resolution stating its intention to remove the Administrator and the reasons therefor, a copy of which shall be served on the Administrator. Immediately upon delivery to the Administrator of the resolution stating the intent of the Town Council, the Administrator shall be relieved of office and all further duties.”

According to Anderson’s contract, if he is fired “for cause” between now and Oct. 26, he will be entitled to six months of severance pay. “Cause” includes being convicted of a felony and gross negligence in carrying out employment obligations.

Both of Anderson’s charges are Class A misdemeanors.

Budreau would only say the special meeting tonight was called to “discuss a matter of pending litigation and a personnel matter.”

Anderson’s contract is up for renewal this fall. He earns $124,962 a year. He came to Derry in 2010 after serving as town manager in Boothbay, Maine, for 10 years.