ALTON — A Mallard Road man is facing two counts of disorderly conduct after police arrested and removed him from a selectman's meeting on February 3.
Jeffrey T. Clay, 56, is charged with one count of failing to move from a public place after being ordered to do so by a police officer and one count of disrupting a public meeting.
Both of the above charges are class B misdemeanors and punishable by a fine if he is convicted.
Clay becomes the second man in as many years in Belknap County to find himself facing criminal charges for trying to speak his mind at a public meeting during a public input portion of a meeting.
A similar case against a Gilford resident who objected to a reading assignment given to his 9th grade daughter in May of 2014 was dismissed by Judge Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on December 19.
Carroll ruled that while Baer was impolite the night he spoke out at the Gilford School Board meeting, he had done nothing criminal.
In the Alton case, Clay attended the February 3 selectman's meeting and objected to a revised public input policy that had just been adopted. He called for the resignation of many of the board members as well as the resignation of Town Administrator Russ Bailey.
During his allotted time to speak — Clay had brought and set a timer so he wouldn't exceed five minutes — he accused the board of deliberately trying to circumvent the N.H. Right-to-Know law by holding "workshop" sessions at odd hours of the day and making decisions during them that were not transparent.
Clay didn't raise his voice or use any profanities during his time to talk, however he made some remarks about what he felt was continuing illegal action on the part of individual board members regarding public transparency.
The video of the meeting shows Clay sitting and talking at the visitor's microphone. About one minute into his talk, Chair R. Loring Carr began banging his gavel in an attempt to silence Clay while Selectman David Hussey went out into the hall and returned with Police Chief Ryan Heath.
Heath went up to Clay and asked him three times to leave the room. Heath was polite but firm. On the third time he told Clay that he would be arrested if he didn't leave.
Clay stayed and kept talking so Heath removed Clay from the room by holding Clay's arm behind his back. Out of the view of the camera, Heath said he called another officer who came and took Clay to the station, booked him, and released him on personal recognizance bail.
For the past few months, meeting minutes indicate Clay was continually at odds with selectmen. His complaints remained consistent — that the board was deliberately violating the N.H. Right-to-Know law.
He would repeatedly ask for some if not all of the selectmen to resign. He objected to the board having a uniformed police officer at all of their meetings by calling it intimidation.
Minutes show he was escorted out three previous times by police, but the February 3 incident is his first arrest.
Clay was also present at the widely attended meeting of the Alton School Board earlier this week, as was a uniformed police officer who stayed toward the back of the room near the exit.
In a statement made before the meeting convened, Clay told attendees not to be intimidated by the police and encouraged them to say what they felt they had to say.
During the course of the meeting, Clay addressed the board a number of times but was not removed from room by police, nor did he exceed the five-minute rule.
It is not known if Clay has obtained legal services for his impending court case. He said Tuesday he had approached someone.
Alton Prosecutor Tony Estee said he expects Clay's first court date will be in the end of March or beginning of April.
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