Court case

A one-year order of protection has been issued against a Keene mayoral candidate, after his actions toward a city employee prompted her to file a stalking petition in court.

Mark J. Zuchowski, 66, was ordered Wednesday to stay 300 feet from the employee, for the most part, for a period extending through Oct. 7, 2022. The woman, whom The Sentinel is not identifying because of the nature of her allegations, said in her Sept. 13 petition that Zuchowski went to the office where she works at city hall or contacted her by email on several occasions in early September before unexpectedly showing up at her house and refusing to leave.

“Mr. Zuchowski sent an unsolicited e-mail to [the employee] and then arrived unannounced and uninvited at her residence, clearly having obtained her home address himself or with the assistance of someone else,” Judge Patrick Ryan of 8th Circuit Court District Division wrote in the order. “He clearly knew that she would be home based upon his attempt to ring the doorbell. Because this was a weekday when she might normally be expected to be at work, Mr. Zuchowski had determined, the court can conclude, that she was not at work.”

The stalking petition is a civil filing, and Zuchowski has not been charged with a crime.

Wednesday’s hearing, which the protection order says Zuchowski did not attend, was the day after the city’s municipal primary elections. Incumbent George Hansel was the top winner in this preliminary round in the mayoral race with 763 votes, while Zuchowski received 58. Both will advance to the November general election after defeating Aria DiMezzo, who received 35 votes and is facing criminal charges stemming from what federal prosecutors describe as an unlicensed scheme to sell cryptocurrency.

Zuchowski previously told The Sentinel he found the employee’s address by searching for it online. He has described the incident as a misunderstanding.

The order requires Zuchowski to stay away from the woman and off her property, and to relinquish any firearms he may own for the order’s duration. However, Ryan notes that the order doesn’t bar Zuchowski from being in city hall.

“The contact limitation of this order shall NOT prevent Mr. Zuchowski from entering Keene City Hall or the [employee’s office] for legitimate business,” Ryan wrote in the order. “He shall NOT make or attempt to make contact with [the employee] while there.”

The employee said in her stalking petition that she encountered Zuchowski on Aug. 31 when he was at city hall. She said he came to her office several days later, asked questions about city business and talked to her about his late mother, which she said she “was weirded out by.”

After he came back to the office Sept. 7, the employee says Zuchowski emailed her on Sept. 8 asking her to attend an antiques show in Massachusetts with him, and she didn’t respond. On Sept. 10, Zuchowski turned up outside her house. According to the petition, he rang the doorbell and began photographing the home, prompting the woman to contact her colleagues, her husband and the police.

Zuchowski told The Sentinel he’d come to her house because he wasn’t sure if she’d seen his invitation 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 that he said he’d wait for the police to arrive. When Keene police did, they issued a trespass order and asked Zuchowski multiple times to leave the property, according to the petition.

Zuchowski said he recalls the incident differently. In a Sept. 12 email he sent to some of her coworkers, he called the no-trespass order an “insult.”

Keene’s municipal election is scheduled for Nov. 2.

Mia Summerson can be reached at 603-352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter

@MiaSummerson

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