DERRY — Residents are calling on their town councilors to see why more details about the situation with Town Administrator John Anderson aren’t being made public.
Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said people constantly ask her for more information about the case and why town officials can’t speak more openly.
“I go to church, to the store, they all ask me, ‘Why is everything such a secret?’” Katsakiores said.
Anderson, 50, turned himself in to state police last week on charges of indecent exposure and lewdness. He is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 11 in 10th Circuit Court in Derry.
Katsakiores said many people are concerned that Town Council meetings about Anderson have been held behind closed doors.
“Many think they should be more open,” she said. “They are not happy at all. They think there is just too much secrecy.”
Anderson has been on administrative leave since July 12, one day after an alleged incident at his Lane Road home involving a DirecTV salesman. The two counts against Anderson are Class A misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a year in jail.
He was put on paid leave, then councilors voted unanimously on Aug. 20 to place him on unpaid leave.
Assistant Town Administrator Larry Budreau has been serving as acting town administrator in Anderson’s absence. He is the only person authorized by the Town Council to speak about Anderson.
But Budreau has been on vacation, which means no one is allowed to speak about the matter. He is scheduled to return to work late this week.
Most councilors remain tight-lipped.
Councilor Tom Cardon said it was best to let Budreau do the talking.
“I think it best for me not to make any comments right now,” he said. “I’m trying to respect the integrity of the council.”
Councilor Mark Osborne said Anderson remains innocent until proven guilty.
“In the criminal system, an arrest/booking is not evidence of guilt or wrongdoing,” he said.
He said many residents have asked him about Anderson.
“Although no one is happy about the story per se, they understand that Derry is bigger than any one person,” Osborne said.”They believe, as do I, that Derry should be, and will be judged by its charity, its sense of community, its active citizenship, its schools and safe streets.”
Other councilors did not respond to requests for comment.
Some residents are backing the three-year town administrator.
Ellie Sarcione said she is afraid Anderson has been found guilty before he even goes to court.
“Under the circumstances, we can only go by what the papers print and so to make a judgment is not fair to John Anderson,” Sarcione said. “I like John and find this most difficult to believe.”
But, Sarcione said, many people have made up their minds.
“God forbid those who are talking should walk in John’s shoes for one day,” she said. “He is ruined; his life as he knew it is over. This will haunt him the rest of his life.”
Anderson’s attorney Cornelius Sullivan said in an email his client is “adamant” about his innocence and this was the first time Anderson has been ever charged with a crime.
“I am convinced that once all of the facts in this case come to light, my client will be fully exonerated,” Sullivan said.
He said Anderson has been a valued employee of Derry for the past three years.
“Mr. Anderson stands ready to return to work as soon as the Town Council permits him to do so,” Sullivan said.
Anderson was the town administrator in Boothbay, Maine, for 10 years before coming to Derry in October 2010. He earns $124,962 a year.
His three-year contract ends Oct. 25. If Anderson is fired “for cause” before then, he is entitled to six months of severance pay, according to his contract. That “cause” includes being convicted of a felony and gross negligence in carrying out his employment obligations.
Councilors will meet again once Budreau returns, Osborne said.
Sullivan said Anderson is looking forward to having the truth come out. He said his client appreciates the support and encouragement he has received.
“Mr. Anderson has been humbled by that show of support and looks forward to being able to return to work serving the Town Council and the citizens of Derry,” Sullivan said.
Until Anderson has his day in court, Sarcione said, people in town should stop the “trash talk.”
“People should stop and think and give John his day in court,” she said. “In the meanwhile, stop the trashy, despicable talk about him. Who are they to be judge and jury?”