CHICHESTER — The Alton man who was arrested in early February for telling the Alton selectmen they should resign went on the record earlier his week about his opinion about what happened to him.
Jeffrey Clay, who has retained the Sisti Law Group to represent him and was interviewed in the firm's Chichester office on Monday, said that in his mind, Alton selectmen and Police Chief Ryan Heath "used my arrest as a way to silence me."
"They didn't want me to use my free speech to say something's wrong and I want it corrected," he said.
Clay was charged with disorderly conduct after telling selectmen, during the meeting's public comment period, that they were corrupt and should resign their positions.
During the episode, Chair Loring Carr banged his gavel to silence Clay while Selectman David Hussey left the table, exited the room and returned with Heath.
Heath led him from the room by holding one of Clay's arms behind his back and turned him over to a second officer who was outside the building. Clay was charged with two counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct – one each for a separate clause within the disorderly conduct law.
Clay said during their brief encounter and after Heath told him to leave, he said to him that he didn't do anything and Heath replied that Clay "thinks everybody is wrong except for him."
Clay said his primary complaint about the board was their lack of transparency. He said the board had been meeting in "planning sessions" during odd times of the day with no agendas or minutes and had recently decided not to continue broadcasting their regularly scheduled meetings with Lakes Region Public Access.
He said the board has been having "illegal meetings" and deliberately "circumventing" the right to know laws.
He also said the board arbitrarily goes into non-public session, including one session where they apparently discussed him without giving him the opportunity to request the meeting be held in public, which is his right under the N.H. Right to Know Law.
Three days after his arrest, he went to the police station to get a copy of the police complaints and told the dispatcher he was recording her.
She told him he needed to turn off his cell phone because she didn't agree to be taped and threatened to have him arrested in a public building.
He said just prior to his encounter with the dispatcher, he had parked his car in an area that said "municipal parking." He said he interpreted that as a place he could park his car while on municipal business but the K-9 officer told him he couldn't park there. Clay said the officer's dog was off leash and approached him.
"All I saw was German Shepard," he said when asked which dog came to him.
He said he took a photograph of the lined up police cars and Heath told him he was trespassing.
"It's one photograph," he said.
He described his life since his arrest and subsequent encounter with the police.
"It's upsetting," he said, noting that he is a retired 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who spent seven years as a military police officer.
He's married with two children, four grandchildren and his mother, who lives in Dover, is upset by all the publicity surrounding him and his arrest.
Clay taught high school and finished all of his credits but one toward his CAGS, the specific training an education needs to be a school superintendent. He was fired from the Newmarket School District some years ago where he was a teacher and athletic coach.
"It's upsetting," he repeated, saying when he went to the Alton Central School office to get a copy of Superintendent William "Bill" Lander's employment contract "one of the biggest police officers I've ever seen was standing there."
He said he learned that a school district employee had called the police because she was afraid of him.
"That's sending out a message that I am a problem," he said.
The sad thing, said Clay, is that the tactics used by the selectmen and police have worked because he is not going to town meetings.
"My wife doesn't want me to go because I'm on bail," he said.
Attorney Mark Sisti said he and Clay are hopeful that the criminal case can be resolved without litigation.
"Alton should step back and learn the rules," Sisti said. "We were shocked when we heard about it."
"In a sense, they've won by absolutely silencing me," Clay said.
CUTLINE: (Jeffrey Clay) Jeffrey Clay discusses his legal situation while sitting in the Sisti Law Offices earlier this week. Clay was charged with disorderly conduct after telling the selectboard they were corrupt and should resign.