A Keene city employee has filed a stalking petition against a mayoral candidate she alleges repeatedly went to her office over several days and later showed up at her home and refused to leave.
According to the petition, filed Sept. 13 in 8th Circuit Court District Division in Keene, Mark J. Zuchowski, 66, encountered the employee at city hall on Aug. 31. After a series of interactions that culminated with Zuchowski’s being confronted by Keene police outside her house, she requested protective orders barring him from several actions, including contacting her and being on her property.
The stalking petition is a civil action and Zuchowski — who contends the whole thing was a misunderstanding — has not been charged with a crime. The woman was granted a temporary order of protection against Zuchowski on Sept. 13, and a court hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 6.
Zuchowksi, a Hadley, Mass., native who has lived in Keene for about six years, is one of three candidates running for mayor in Tuesday’s municipal primary election. The others are incumbent George Hansel and Aria DiMezzo, and one of the three will be eliminated from the ballot during voting next week.
In a pending criminal case, DiMezzo is facing multiple charges stemming from what federal prosecutors describe as an unlicensed scheme to sell cryptocurrency.
Keene City Manager Elizabeth Dragon declined to discuss the specifics of the incident involving Zuchowski and the city employee, but said the city is always looking for ways to create safer workspaces. Describing the importance of staff’s safety and well-being, she said, “We continually review safety protocols and make temporary and/or permanent adjustments when necessary.”
The city employee — who declined to comment on this matter and who The Sentinel is not identifying due to the nature of her allegations — said in her petition that Zuchowski returned to her office a couple of days after encountering her on Aug. 31, on Sept. 2 or 3, and asked questions about city business, and she provided him information. She wrote that Zuchowski then began to tell her about his late mother, which she “was weirded out by.”
He returned Sept. 7, she said in the petition, and told her “things aren’t always what they appear to be.” According to the petition, he then began to shake a bottle of seltzer water he’d brought, causing it to fizz.
“This put me on high alert and [I] asked what was in the bottle,” she wrote, “he advised it was only seltzer. He then proceeded to tell me about a young lady he watches ... that has a young child and he watches her. This really was not normal behavior.”
Zuchowski said in a Sept. 12 email to city staff that he can see this young woman’s place of business from his home and keeps an eye out to make sure she gets inside safely and turns the lights on when she is opening in the early morning while it’s still dark out.
On the morning of Sept. 8, the city employee said in her petition, she received an email from Zuchowski with “Good Morning — Thank you — Date-Brimfield” written in the subject line.
In the email, which The Sentinel reviewed as part of the petition filing, Zuchowski asks her to take a day off from work and invites her to an antiques show and flea market in Massachusetts.
Zuchowski acknowledges he made the request, but said he had no romantic intentions and invited her to the show to discuss things related to his campaign.
The petition says Zuchowski sent another email to the woman’s office on Sept. 9, but her statement does not elaborate on the contents of the email. She said she was off that day.
Then, in the late afternoon on Sept. 10, Zuchowski drove to the woman’s home, parking in her driveway in a manner that would prevent anyone else from using it, she wrote in the petition. She said she called several city staff members and asked her husband to come home right away.
She wrote that she then called Keene police, just before 6 p.m. During this time, the petition says, Zuchowski remained in front of the house and began taking photos of the property and ringing the doorbell.
Zuchowski told The Sentinel he’d looked up the woman’s address online and had come to her house because he wasn’t sure if she’d seen his invite to the antiques show. He said he took the photos because he thought he’d been there when apartment hunting several years earlier.
The employee wrote that her husband told Zuchowski to leave but he didn’t, and when informed the police were en route, Zuchowski said he would wait for them.
According to the dispatch report from the incident, at least three members of the Keene Police Department responded to the scene. The call came in at 5:56 p.m., and a trespass notice was issued at 6:32 p.m.
After the order was issued, Zuchowski was asked five times to leave the property and still refused to do so, saying he wanted to talk to the woman, she wrote. But Keene police officers told him he could not speak to her and he had to leave, she said.
Zuchowski said he recalls the incident differently and was there to see if she’d received his invitation. In a Sept. 12 email he sent to some of her coworkers, he called the no-trespass order an “insult.”
He said he was trying to leave her a note as well as a small pumpkin as a gift. The note, photos of which he included in his email, expresses admiration for her, compliments her appearance and says his antiques-show offer still stood.