Wellesley gadfly convicted of extortion

Was accused of threatening 2 Wellesley officials

A WELLESLEY RESIDENT with a history of hostility with the town was found guilty of extortion last week for threatening to file criminal charges against two Select Board members if they failed to seek the removal of several town officials from their positions.

The unusual case centered around Ronald Alexander, a Wellesley resident who has gained some notoriety for his aggressive behavior in filing public records requests and open meeting complaints with municipalities.

Alexander came under fire in 2019 from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and from the state’s supervisor of public records in 2017 for his excessive filings. A Wellesley school teacher in 2013 sought a restraining order against him that was settled out of court.

The incident that triggered the extortion charges occurred on February 13, 2020, when Alexander threatened to file criminal charges against Wellesley Select Board members Lise Olney and Elizabeth Sullivan-Woods if they failed to agree to “ensure the resignation or withdrawal from re-election of several town officials, and affect the termination of town counsel,” according to a statement filed by prosecutors at the trial.

A jury found Alexander guilty of two counts of extortion and a judge sentenced him on Friday to three years of probation. Under the terms of his probation, Alexander is required to pay a fine of $1,500, complete treatment for anger management, submit to a mental health evaluation and take part in any recommended treatment, and stay away from the two officials.

If Alexander violates his terms of probation, he could be jailed for six months in the Norfolk County House of Correction in Dedham.

“This was a highly unusual case,” said Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey in a statement. “We thank the jury for their work and for standing up for the principle that elected officials should be able to serve free of intimidation.”

Alexander and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. Olney declined to comment and Sullivan-Woods could not be reached.

This is not the first time that Alexander has been involved with the court system as a consequence of his behavior.

In 2013, Elizabeth Perry, the Wellesley school system’s performing arts director at the time, went to court to seek a “harassment protection order” against Alexander after feeling intimidated by communications she received from him. Her legal expenses were reportedly paid for by the town.

Alexander subsequently entered into a settlement agreement with Perry in which he apologized profusely and agreed to “immediately cease . . . any and all efforts to challenge, criticize, disparage, or otherwise inquire about the qualifications, education, and work experience of Ms. Perry, any Wellesley administrator, and any faculty or staff member in the performing arts department.”

In another matter involving harassment, Wellesley town officials in 2017 wrote to Rebecca Murray, the state supervisor of public records in the secretary of state’s office, complaining about the over 200 costly, time-consuming public records requests made by Alexander to the town.

“Mr. Alexander utilizes the public records law to target and harass specific employees,” town officials wrote to Murray. “Mr. Alexander’s pointed requests have typically been preceded by some action taken by an employee by which Mr. Alexander seemingly feels aggrieved.”

Murray, in a rare move based on a provision in the public records law, ruled that Alexander was indeed harassing the town with his mountain of public records requests and held that the town did not need to respond to his latest request.