Fire Chief Michael Gagnon has confirmed that a member of his staff was responsible for information leading to the posting, and subsequent removal, of fliers referring to a Town Councilor’s arrest 30 years ago.
Gagnon read a statement Wednesday, July 22, saying, “I have been notified that a member of the Derry Fire Department may have been involved in forwarding information used at least in part on fliers distributed regarding Councilor (Albert) Dimmock. I am not happy that any member of the Derry Fire Department would have been involved. I am dealing with this as a personnel matter and have no other comment.”
Gagnon declined to say what disciplinary measures would be applied, if any.
A report released by the Derry Police Department after an RSA 91:A request stated that Christopher Hutchinson, 46, of 72 Tsienneto Road, was observed putting up the fliers at the Municipal Center on the afternoon of Sunday, July 12. Det. Sgt. Robert Smith requested that Det. Scott Tompkins interview Hutchinson. Tompkins called the family home and Hutchinson’s wife, Leigh, said she had no knowledge of the fliers and that her husband was not home. Later Chris Hutchinson called Tompkins and confirmed that he was the distributor of the fliers. He also told Tompkins that he had received the information about Dimmock from a member of the Fire Department, but declined to name his source.
As reported previously in the Nutfield News, Dimmock has said he was arrested in 1985 and charged with two counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced to one year in prison but served less than six months, and moved to New Hampshire shortly after.
For his part, Dimmock was not surprised at the source of the information. “The Fire Department are the ones after the Council for cutting the budget,” Dimmock said.
Dimmock said Gagnon at first told him “his boys” had nothing to do with it, but when he found the source, he called and apologized. “I asked him for their names and he said he wasn’t going there,” Dimmock said, adding, “But he did say there would be an investigation.”
Dimmock said there was no doubt in his mind that the flurry of fliers was politically motivated.
Dimmock and three other Councilors – David Fischer, Mark Osborne and Tom Cardon – have been criticized by townspeople after their vote May 19 to cut the budget, including eight Fire positions; four Police positions; two Public Works positions; overtime to fire, police and public works; closure of a fire station and eliminating the Human Resources position.
While many residents wanted to see their taxes reduced, they have expressed concern that these cuts were too deep and would affect public safety and operations. Many residents have expressed their concerns on a Facebook page run by Derry Firefighters Local 4392.
Hutchinson, reached by phone on July 22, expressed no regrets.
“My motivation? Civic duty,” he said. “There’s a lot of information floating around out there, but a lot of the policemen, firemen and town employees feel like they’ll lose their jobs if they speak up.
“A lot of people knew things,” Hutchinson said.
He admits that peppering the downtown with fliers “might not have been the nicest way to do it,” and said he sat on the information for two or three days before deciding to go public with it.
Hutchinson is concerned not so much with Dimmock’s past as with his present, and his participation in a voting bloc with Osborne, Fischer and Cardon. “It’s always that 4-3 vote,” Hutchinson said, referring to the recent budget vote and surrounding issues. “They are pushing forth their agenda, and voting against what the people want.”
Hutchinson’s recall of the July 11-12 weekend differs from the police report. “I spent two hours passing out the fliers, and I actually dropped one off at the police station,” he said. “That was because they would have tracked me down anyway.”
While members of the police force took down the fliers, nobody told him personally to stop, and he wasn’t fined or charged with any crime, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said his only regret is that he had to do it on a weekend. “I had to put posters on businesses that were closed, and I couldn’t ask their permission,” he said. When a business was open, he did ask, Hutchinson added.