On July 28, the newest episode of “Up Close and Political,” a Derry Public Access show hosted by former Derry Town Councilors Kevin Coyle and Janet Fairbanks, aired on Derry TV. It was a direct response to the backlash surrounding the previous “Up Close and Political” show, aired on July 17, in which Coyle, who also serves as the Rockingham County Commissioner, and the Crimal Attorny for the Town of Londonderry, raised the question of whether or not Derry Councilor Jim Morgan, who they call “Thin Skinned Jim” on the show, did his homework when he decided to begin fundraising efforts to help re-build an Air Force veteran’s home.
Only last month, 80-year-old veteran Larry Reimer was presented with a newly built home, a result of the many fundraising efforts by the people of Derry, led by Councilor Morgan with support from rotary clubs and other organizations. More than $50,000 was raised to help re-home Reimer, who, for the past 16 years, had been living in a shack on the Island Pond Road property due to a house fire that left the residence uninhabitable.
The Derry News and Eagle Tribune had followed Reimer’s story since its inception, documenting the fundraising success and Reimer’s gratitude, but a comment on the article “Derry rallies to build home for veteran,” written by Julie Huss, sparked controversy and made Coyle question whether or not Morgan did his research when promoting Reimer’s story, eventually prompting Coyle to discuss it on his show.
The comment in question was made by Chris Reimer, who claimed that he was Reimer’s son, and that Reimer was a “deadbeat dad,” having abandoned Chris, his sister Heather, and his mother Carol over 40 years ago. He professed his shock that “the great taxpayers of the U.S. have rallied behind a man who has perceived himself as a victim of misfortune.”
“If any of this is true,” Coyle said, “it’s kind of disturbing what people are donating to.”
It was this line of thinking that caused backlash against Coyle, so much so that he intends to file a lawsuit.
“I have been attacked and I don’t sit back lightly.”
Coyle had already known that Morgan hadn’t completely researched the home or the property they were planning on re-building because in 2016, Coyle had done research on the property himself. Last year, Coyle and his wife purchased a portion of the land on which Reimer resides from an auction for $1,000. After doing some research, they discovered the land had not been properly subdivided because it had been divided only by the will of Thelma Reimer, Reimer’s mother.
The property had been left to her children; her son Francis Reimer would inherit the back two acres of the property, and the house would be left to her two daughters, Dorothy Smalls and Shirley Duncan, subject, however, “to the right of my beloved son, Lawrence Riemer, presently of Derry, New Hampshire, to use said residence and the furniture and furnishings therein for the balance of his natural life, and on the condition that he pay all of the costs and expenses incidental to said use of the residence and furniture and furnishings.”
This conditional clause is what amounts to a life estate, or a joint ownership of the house in question in which Reimer may reside until his death. Ultimately, however, the house belongs to his sisters. Because Reimer is responsible for paying taxes on the property, his name is on the tax card—while this is proof that Reimer pays the taxes, it is not necessarily proof that he owns the property.
Mark Jesionowski, secretary at Derry’s Assessor Department, said that the tax card would reflect the life estate because the person would be added to the ownership information. “With the life estate,” he said, “they have the right to occupy and use the property, but they’re not necessarily owners of the property.”
Though Reimer’s name is listed as the owner on the tax card, it is more convoluted than that, claimed Coyle.
It was with this knowledge that Coyle originally questioned the motives of Morgan, claiming on the July 17 show that the councilor “just wants to get his name out there,” and that Coyle hoped that Morgan had “done his homework.”
Because Coyle believed Morgan had cut corners in some regards, the comment from Chris Reimer prompted Coyle to delve further into inquiry. While Coyle never claimed on the show that the comment was true, Coyle was under the impression that because the comment made by the alleged Chris Riemer was on the newspaper’s website, it had already been monitored and vetted.
“There was some ring of truth to it,” he said to Nutfield News. On the July 17 show, he once referred to Riemer using the same term Chris had, “deadbeat dad,” but never confirmed that anything the comment had said was accurate—he just wondered if it was, and what else might have been overlooked.
On July 18, a day after the controversial “Up Close and Political” episode aired, there was a Town Council meeting in which Marc Flattes, a resident of Derry, asked members to look into Reimer’s military service. Because Chris Reimer’s comment claimed he had no knowledge of his father’s service, it made both Coyle and Flattes question whether or not Reimer had actually served.
Reimer’s discharge papers proved that Reimer had been in the U.S. Air Force from June 1954 to May 1956, but did not discount the other allegations Chris Reimer had made.
Members of the Town Council, especially Morgan, were angered that a veteran’s past had been called into question.
On Friday, July 21, Coyle received a phone call from Eagle Tribune reporter Allison DeAngelis, which he described as a “very disturbing conversation,” in which DeAngelis accused him of not doing his homework and falsely accusing Reimer of lying.
“This reporter really came after me,” he said. “I’ve never had that happen.”
When DeAngelis said that Reimer claimed he didn’t have a son named Chris, Coyle felt bad. He was worried that he had made a mistake and jumped to conclusions upon reading the comment left on Huss’s article. But, when DeAngelis told him that Reimer said Coyle had approached him about purchasing the remainder of the property’s land, Coyle knew there was more to the story.
“It was a bold faced lie,” Coyle said about Reimer’s claims. “So what else had he lied about?”
After this conversation, Coyle decided to do some research. Coyle’s wife, who is also an attorney, googled Chris Reimer and connected him to both Heather and Carol Reimer. The only missing link was Larry. On Tuesday, July 25, Coyle’s wife went to the Rockingham Court House and found divorce documents from 1974 for Carol Reimer and Lawrence Reimer that named their two children, Christopher and Heather, and their address as being on Island Pond Rd.
Christopher was born in 1971 and was three by the time of the divorce. Since Reimer had served in the Air Force many years prior to the births of his children, it was not unlikely that Christopher did not know about it. The Coyles also found documents illustrating a history of child support violations and missed court dates—all of which are public records.
“Who denies they have a kid, and what reporter wouldn’t research into it?” Coyle wondered.
Again, Coyle hoped that DeAngelis would do her research, because he had done his.
“The reporter did a piss-poor job,” he said.
Then, on Wednesday, July 26, Coyle received another call, this time by an editor at The Eagle Tribune, who had been pointed in his direction. She told him that they were to run a story regarding the allegations towards Reimer and Coyle’s role in them. Coyle told the editor he had proof that the allegations made by Chris Reimer were true, and that he would provide them to the paper following the July 28 “Up Close and Political” show.
The editor, who declined to comment for this article, told him that DeAngelis would be in touch, but he has since heard nothing. A few hours later, the article went live, and along with the misinformation, came outrage.
“They have been like rabid dogs coming after me,” Coyle said on July 28’s “Up Close and Political.”
He was referring to the commentary members of the Facebook page “Bringing Derry Together” have posted. DeAngelis, who declined to comment for this article, posted her article as soon as it was published online, and what resulted was a slew of negative comments geared toward Coyle.
Morgan, who would not comment on the record for this article, did comment on the Facebook post: “The only facts being misrepresented are on the Hate Show that has been played out for the entire community! You want to ask questions, pick up the phone. You want to grandstand and be a complete attack dog on TV and then have someone else defend their actions. You don’t ask questions by insinuating someone is a liar or by name calling and being [pompous]. You do it professionally and with class. There is nothing County Commissioner Coyle did that had any class! And is addition, he is a public official open to scrutiny. Have a little thicker skin.”
DeAngelis’s article was a “hit piece” in Coyle’s perspective and portrayed him as a liar who didn’t know what he was talking about. Though Coyle presented the editor with knowledge that documents proving Coyle’s claims existed, the paper decided to run the article anyway.
“These people did not do their job, this newspaper did not do their job, and it’s now affected me,” he said.
“I didn’t do anything wrong other than to question whether or not you had done your job, because I knew for some portions of it, you hadn’t,” he continued.
DeAngelis commented within the Facebook thread, asking that if anyone had information regarding the existence of Chris Reimer, whose existence was dismissed in DeAngelis’s article, to contact her. Though Coyle had already given proof and has since provided copies of all the documentation he found, there have been no corrections to the article.
“It should not be the job of a reporter to be one-sided,” he said.
Many members of the page commented that Coyle’s show should be taken down, and DeAngelis alludes within her article that “Since the broadcast, Derry Community Television has begun a review of its policies.” This, however, was taken out of context, according to Derry Community Television’s Assistant Coordinator, soon to be Coordinator, Owen Provencher.
The policies have been under review since before the broadcast, but not about what is allowed on screen. “A lot of it had to do with technology that’s outdated in terms of the use of some of our equipment,” he said. 2010 policies addressing how to burn a DVD, or use a VHS tape, are some examples.
“We are here to be a beacon of free speech,” he continued, “and allow those who would like to speak their minds and their opinions to do so.”
Some of the comments on the Facebook thread were threatening, according to Coyle. One such comment from Julie MacLean was read by Fairbanks on the show on the 28: “Coyle should be very afraid of the smart and angered Derry people as he has eyes on him now of the keen people of Derry.”
MacLean said she didn’t mean it as a threat, just that the people of Derry are more aware of him, and what he says from now on could affect his career. She believes that Coyle never should have read Chris Reimer’s comment on his show or probed into Reimer’s private life.
But it is these kinds of comments, and the fact that the Eagle Tribune printed information they knew to be false, because he had told them he had proof and they printed the story anyway, in order to portray him in what he believes to be a negative light, that is pushing him toward a lawsuit.
On the latest “Up Close and Political,” he said that the community coming to help Reimer was a “wonderful thing that should be commended,” but that there are a lot of people out there that need help, and the townspeople who donated money should have been privy to the whole story.
Coyle plans to sue The Eagle Tribune, DeAngelis, and others for libel, and though the process takes time and is probably a few months away, “it’s coming.”
“I’m not afraid to take them all on,” he said.