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Lawyer: Gatsas takes risk, opens himself up to questioning with suit

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 20. 2017 9:38PM

MANCHESTER — By filing a politically charged lawsuit against two adversaries, Mayor Ted Gatsas opens himself up to the possibility of being questioned under oath about the 2015 rape at Manchester High School West during the heat of his reelection campaign, according to a First Amendment lawyer.

Sensitive material — from campaign memos to personal emails to texts — would all be open to discovery, which is the traditional exchange of information that occurs before a lawsuit goes to trial, said William Chapman, who practices media law for the Concord firm of Orr and Reno.

And once lawyers receive the information and have the depositions transcribed, they would be free to file the material in court, which makes it public, he said.

“I would think they would be after everything they could get. They would want to cast as wide a net as possible,” said Chapman, who has represented local, regional and national media.

On July 12, Gatsas said he filed a defamation suit against two political adversaries — former Alderman Bill Cashin and political gadfly Jon Hopwood. Earlier this month, both had filed papers at City Hall, asking that the city Conduct Board be impaneled to investigate whether Gatsas covered up the 2015 rape at West High School.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen rejected their request on Tuesday.

When asked about a deposition, Gatsas said he has nothing to hide.

“This is not about politics, this is about my integrity,” said Gatsas. He said the Cashin-Hopwood letter was politically motivated. “I’m still waiting for Joyce Craig to condemn it,” Gatsas said.

According to court rules, once Cashin and Hopwood answer Gatsas’ claims, Gatsas would have to turn over any proof of his claims to their lawyers in 30 days.

A judge eventually schedules a status conference, and the exchange of information is discussed, Chapman said. Chapman said further discovery, including depositions, usually takes place within 90 days. Also likely to be deposed: Police Chief Nick Willard and former Assistant Superintendent David Ryan, who have said they spoke with Gatsas about the rape.

“It’s certainly not something I would be keen to talk about if I was in the heat of a mayoral race,” said Democratic Party spokesman Wyatt Ronan. He said state Democrats did not work with Cashin and Hopwood before they filed the Conduct Board complaint, but he acknowledged alerting media of subsequent developments.

Cashin said he has yet to be served with the lawsuit. He said he is trying to find a lawyer to take his case. No one has offered to pay his legal bills, he said.

“We’re not taking it lightly,” Cashin said. “When you find yourself in a position like this, you’re concerned.”

Meanwhile, city Democratic Party chairman Ryan Mahoney filed a complaint with Attorney General Gordon MacDonald about a recent survey Gatsas mailed to Manchester residents.

An accompanying letter and return envelope identify the material as Gastas campaign material. But the sender envelope and survey contain no such disclosure.

“The survey could easily be interpreted to be an official survey by the Mayor of Manchester, as it is entitled “2017 City of Manchester Mayor’s Survey”, and states that it is being conducted by “Mayor Theodore Gatsas-City of Manchester,” reads the complaint, filed by Ryan Mahoney, chair of the Manchester City Democrats.

Gatsas campaign manager Ross Berry called the complaint a “sad political stunt by Joyce Craig and her tax raising allies.”

“The disclaimer is clearly printed inside the mailer, the front of the envelope says it is not prepared with taxpayers dollars, and the return envelope clearly says Gatsas for Mayor,” Berry said.

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