, Derry, New Hampshire

July 13, 2013

Administrator on leave, under investigation

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie and Julie Huss
Staff writers

---- — DERRY — Town Administrator John Anderson yesterday was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the New Hampshire State Police.

The Town Council met in an emergency nonpublic session for about 45 minutes late yesterday afternoon.

After emerging from that session, Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks announced three resolutions the council had passed, all unanimously.

The first was to put Anderson on leave. The second was to appoint Larry Budreau, human resources director and assistant town administrator, as acting town administrator. The third was to appoint Budreau as the “sole spokesperson for the town of Derry” regarding Anderson’s situation.

“Certain allegations involving the town administrator have been brought to the town’s attention,” Budreau said after the meeting. “These allegations do not involve the town. The matter has been referred to the New Hampshire State Police for further investigation and Mr. Anderson has been placed on administrative leave with pay under the provisions of the charter until that investigation is complete.”

Anderson, 50, came to Derry in October 2010, from a similar position in Boothbay, Maine. He was one of 121 applicants for the Derry job.

He was hired at just over $100,000 a year when he accepted the post. He was given a raise after his first year, a 2 percent raise his second year and his contract is up for reconsideration in October.

Asked whether Anderson had been at work yesterday, Budreau said he worked “for a portion of the day.”

The administrative leave took effect immediately. Anderson was not at the emergency council meeting.

Budreau, who has worked for the town for seven and a half years, was named assistant town administrator in October 2011. Prior to the council creating that position, Budreau had served as acting administrator in Anderson’s absence — and in prior administrations.

Asked whether the investigation was criminal in nature, Budreau declined to comment. Pushed further and asked whether state police would be involved in the investigation if the concerns weren’t criminal in nature, Budreau still declined to comment.

He also would not say how long Anderson could remain on paid administrative leave.Budreau pleaded exhaustion and said he preferred to let his statement stand and not answer further questions.

The only order of business on the council’s emergency meeting agenda fell under RSA 91A:3 II (a) and III, sections of the state’s access to public records and meetings statute, specifically regarding “the dismissal, promotion or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigation of any charges against him,” and minutes of nonpublic meetings.

On June 18, the council went into nonpublic session, also citing the same section of state statute regarding personnel.

All seven members of the Town Council were present for the emergency meeting yesterday. When they emerged from the meeting room, all declined comment, referring all questions to Budreau.

“I can’t comment on rumors,” Councilor Al Dimmock said, leaving the building.Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores, who has missed the last four or five meetings due to health issues, was there, using a wheelchair. Kasakiores has participated in previous meetings by phone, but made her first appearance in more than a month yesterday.

A call to Anderson’s home yesterday evening was not returned.

In 2011, Anderson and some members of the Town Council at that time, were taken to task for going to a local restaurant together after meetings. Then Councilor Janet Fairbanks, wife of the current council chairman, said she believed they might have been discussing town business and that would have been in violation of state statute.

Town counsel addressed the board and cautioned them about gathering socially. The matter was dropped, but it was never clear whether some councilors and Anderson stopped the practice.

Anderson ruffled a lot of feathers earlier this year when he proposed closing East Derry’s beloved Taylor Library to save $176,000. Public outcry was swift and furious. Town councilors did not support Anderson’s suggestion.

Shortly thereafter, Anderson annoyed some others in town when he balked at a suggestion the Derry Farmers Market funding be cut dramatically. He said he couldn’t understand why councilors were “going after” the market. That budget was ultimately cut by about 75 percent.