A no-trespassing order has been issued against Nashua resident Laurie Ortolano after an incident Friday that led to her being escorted out of Nashua City Hall by police.
Police Sgt. Joseph Rousseau said Wednesday that Ortolano’s no-trespassing order will be in place for up to one year, which prohibits her from entering City Hall without an approved appointment. However, Rousseau said there is no criminal investigation underway.
On Friday, Ortolano sat down on the floor inside the legal offices at City Hall, leaned against a wall and refused to leave until having an appointment with the city’s new Right-to-Know lawyer; five police officers eventually arrived and escorted her out of the building.
According to Steve Bolton, corporation counsel for the city, no lawyer within his office can meet with Ortolano without Ortolano’s attorney present, or without written permission from her legal counsel.
“She has more than one (litigation) matter pending in which the city is an adverse party, so absent her lawyer’s permission or presence, we are prohibited from communicating with her,” said Bolton.
He said representatives from his office are corresponding with her via email and have explained this situation to her previously.
Ortolano said she entered City Hall last week after several requests for an appointment went unanswered, maintaining she was never informed that she would need her attorney’s permission for a meeting to discuss how to get abatement applications time-stamped for fellow senior citizens.
She said that has nothing to do with pending litigation against the city in which she alleges Nashua employees failed to follow Right-To-Know requirements.
“The fact is, we know she doesn’t tell the truth … The impression that she was mistreated because she was hauled out (of City Hall) for no good reason is completely false,” said Bolton. “She was asked to leave many times and refused, and had no right at all to be here and interfere with the operations of this office.”
Bolton said there is a sign outside of the office indicating that appointments are required and that Ortolano’s actions were an “out-and-out invasion” intended to disrupt government operations, seemingly inspired by events in Washington.
“In this case, happily no one was injured or worse, but her example does not make us any more comfortable here,” he said.
Bolton said representatives from the city’s legal office will not meet with Ortolano on any matters without her being represented or without permission from her attorney because it would be too easy for her to allege that the discussion transgressed into matters in which she is represented.
Bolton said this has happened in the past and Ortolano filed an ethics complaint against him; the grievance was ultimately unfounded.
On Tuesday, the city’s Right-to-Know attorney, Jesse Neumann, sent a letter to Ortolano highlighting the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as the ABA Model Rules of Conduct.
“I am happy to assist the city in providing you any information to which you may be legally entitled. However, I am not willing to sacrifice professional ethical standards. In light of my commitment to conform to the NH Rules of Professional Conduct, I must, for the foreseeable future, respectfully decline to meet with you,” Neumann wrote.
He said he has sent Ortolano 26 emails in the past month responding to her Right-To-Know inquiries.
Ortolano’s legal counsel, Richard Lehmann, said as a taxpayer his client should have the same right to city services as anyone else.
“They just said, ‘We don’t trust her,’ but that is different than saying the rules don’t allow it,” said Lehman.
He said it is ludicrous that Ortolano can’t have a conversation with someone in the legal office about getting abatement applications timestamped before the March 1 deadline — especially since it has nothing to do with her pending lawsuit.
“For them now to be saying that they can’t talk to her about anything is preposterous. She has the right to interface with her city government,” he said.
Lehmann said that while the N.H. Rules of Professional Conduct state that a lawyer cannot communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer, it does not prohibit that lawyer from speaking with the person about other unaffiliated matters.
“But she has been consistently denied this for a long time now and it is all because she embarrassed them. She has embarrassed the assessing department by identifying poor performance,” he said.
If there are concerns, Lehmann suggested that everyone involved should agree to have their conversations recorded so that all parties are protected in the future.
Ortolano said this week that just because she previously filed a lawsuit against the city doesn’t mean that she gave up her rights to research city government or file additional Right-To-Know requests.
“They push all of my requests through to legal. They are creating this whole process that is convoluted — like they are the victim,” she said.