A Nashua woman who was escorted out of Nashua City Hall by police last month turned herself in to authorities after a warrant was issued for her arrest last week.
Laurie Ortolano, who has been fighting for more transparency and improvements to Nashua’s assessing department, was arrested Thursday and charged with criminal trespassing for the Jan. 22 incident.
Lt. Rob Giggi of the Nashua Police Department said Monday that the offense is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to a year in jail, if convicted.
“She was at city hall on Jan. 22 trying to conduct business there. City hall has been closed to the public unless you have an appointment,” said Giggi. “She was asked to leave several times by employees. She refused to leave until police arrived.”
Although police did not arrest Ortolano on Jan. 22, she was told that she could not enter the building without an appointment. Giggi said police later spoke with several witnesses and a warrant was issued last week.
Ortolano, who said earlier that she was peacefully protesting a process that has failed her repeatedly, said Monday that the arrest feels “retaliatory” since she has been advocating for more accuracy within the assessing office for more than two years.
“Of course I am disappointed. It seems overblown,” she said of her arrest and criminal charge.
According to Ortolano, she has repeatedly called and emailed attorney Jesse Neumann seeking assistance and clarification on how abatements are being filed and processed this year given the closure of city hall.
She entered the legal office in an attempt to get some abatement applications time-stamped since the deadline to file is March 1. Ortolano, as well as another Nashua resident, are helping about 200 Nashua homeowners who are in the process of filing abatements.
Attorney Steve Bolton, corporation counsel for the city, said Monday that Ortolano’s charge of criminal trespassing “is an appropriate response to her activity.”
“I think the community may not understand that she was in a locked, confidential area … this is a locked area where confidential materials are here and are on desks and in filing cabinets,” said Bolton, adding she was asked to leave multiple times.
“She essentially forced her way in. She jerked the door out of a paralegal’s hand and entered,” he said, describing the personnel in the office as victims.
Ortolano admits that she sat down on the floor, leaned against a wall and refused to leave until having an appointment with the city’s new Right-to-Know lawyer, or getting the abatements time-stamped.
“This is time-sensitive material based on state law,” Ortolano stressed, noting the challenges of meeting deadlines when city hall is closed to the public.
However, Bolton said there is a sign next to the office’s entry door indicating that appointments are necessary to access the legal department. Ortolano maintains that she made several attempts to secure an appointment and was unable to do so.
Bolton said Monday that following the Jan. 22 incident, he inquired with police on whether they were interested in the victims’ input. Subsequently, police eventually responded to the legal office to take statements from witnesses.
Ortolano said her attorney was notified Thursday about the warrant for her arrest. She was released on $40 cash bail and an arraignment has been scheduled for March 24 at the 9th Circuit Court, Nashua District Division.