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Selectman skips his court date

2443 Views 1 Reply 2 Participants Last post by  Dr.Magoo
From The Salem Evening News, Aug 12, '05:

By Andrew Hickey
Staff writer

Topsfield Selectman Ronald Kuszmar, already facing charges of domestic assault, skipped his arraignment yesterday on separate motor vehicle charges in Gloucester District Court. The no-show prompted a judge to issue a warrant and drew criticism from fellow selectmen.

Kuszmar was to be arraigned on charges of driving an uninsured vehicle and driving an unregistered vehicle. The uninsured vehicle charge is criminal, while driving an unregistered vehicle is a civil matter. Gloucester police issued the citations to Kuszmar after a June 26 traffic stop. Details of that stop were not available yesterday.

The default warrant, issued whenever a defendant fails to appear in court, could result in Kuszmar's arrest. It is the latest incident in a checkered summer for the 49-year-old selectman.

Last month, Newbury police arrested Kuszmar and charged him with assaulting his girlfriend, a Plum Island woman. Kuszmar, who lives at 51 Valley Road, Topsfield, is married to another woman but has said he is filing for divorce.

A selectman in Topsfield since 2004, Kuszmar was arrested July 12 and charged with domestic assault and battery, intimidating a witness and trespassing.

According to police, the woman said Kuszmar grabbed her by the arm during a fight and unplugged the phone when she tried to call 911.

Kuszmar also apparently has financial headaches, having filed for bankruptcy in April.

Kuszmar's fellow selectmen said they are astounded at his no-show in court yesterday.

"It just gets worse," Chairman Boyd Jackson said, after being told of the missed arraignment. "I'm dumbfounded. I keep hearing these stories, and I just don't know where it will all end."

Kuszmar was not at Monday's selectmen's meeting, Jackson said, because he told the board he was on a business trip.

The chairman hopes that residents will pressure Kuszmar to resign because Topsfield has no recall bylaw to force his ouster.

Still, fellow Selectman John McArdle plans to ask the town lawyer about it.

"The thing is, people expect a certain level of behavior from their selectmen, and Ron just isn't doing it," McArdle said yesterday.

He said Kuszmar told the board that there was a reason he wouldn't step down.

"One of Ron's claims is that a number of people told him not to resign, because if he did it would be a tacit admission of guilt," McArdle said.

Kuszmar has refused to publicly discuss his arrest. He backed down from a pledge to talk about the domestic-abuse charges in July and has said he is taking his time preparing a statement to ensure the wording is perfect. He has said he does not know when the statement will be ready.

"I am (going to make a statement) at some point in time, but I'm not sure when," he said last week.

In April, Kuszmar filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection from creditors, including the company that holds the $471,000 mortgage on his Valley Road home. According to court papers, Kuszmar was $33,691 in arrears on his mortgage at the time he filed for bankruptcy.

Kuszmar listed slightly more than $18,000 in other debts, including credit card bills totaling just under $7,500, medical bills and veterinary bills.

Typically, bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows a person to hold on to his property while he repays a portion of his debts based on what a court-appointed trustee determines he can afford. However, after Kuszmar missed the first installment of his repayment plan and missed a meeting of creditors, the trustee moved to have the case dismissed - meaning Kuszmar cannot get the bankruptcy protection.

His mortgage company is also seeking to move forward with the foreclosure. A hearing on that is scheduled for Sept. 15.

Kuszmar did not return a message left at his work phone number yesterday. His cell phone number has been disconnected.

He is free on $1,000 bail on the assault charges and is scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing in Newburyport District Court Aug. 19.

Staff writers Julie Manganis and Michele Filgate contributed to this article.
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There was an updated article today in the Salem News which indicated that the warrant was actually for the selectman's son, not the selectman.
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