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Robert McDowell, 57
Charged with two counts of unsworn falsification, one count of criminal defamation of character and one court tampering with public records.
Arrested March 5, 2012 by Portsmouth Police.
Friday, March 9, 2012

Disgraced ex-Nashua school administrator arrested in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH – A former Nashua school administrator who resigned in 2005 after reports surfaced that he had fabricated his military record was arrested this week on charges that again involved lying about military service.

This time, Robert McDowell, 57, allegedly used the name and old cellphone number of a U.S. Marine on active duty in Afghanistan when he wrote politically charged letters to the Portsmouth City Council and to the Portsmouth Herald, according to Portsmouth police.

McDowell was arrested Monday on four misdemeanor charges, police said.

McDowell served as headmaster at Nashua High School South until he resigned in 2005 as the school district was investigating his military record. Headmaster positions, later discontinued by the school district, were similar to assistant principals.

In an interview with The Telegraph in late 2004, McDowell said he was a veteran of 14 tours of duty and that he earned Purple Hearts when he was wounded in the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. The article was about McDowell spending winter break on a 12-day mission, when he said he was helping to train U.S. personnel on bomb deployment.

School administrators later received documents revealing that McDowell had lied to The Telegraph. In fact, he received an “other than honorable” discharge, according to the documents.

McDowell was charged by the Navy with 23 offenses, including wrongfully wearing three Purple Hearts and posing as a doctor in an attempt to obtain prescription painkillers, according to the documents.

In the new misdemeanor charges filed by Portsmouth police, McDowell faces two counts of unsworn falsification, one count of criminal defamation of character and one count of tampering with public records.

McDowell is scheduled to answer to the charges April 2 in Portsmouth District Court.

According to the Portsmouth Herald, McDowell wrote letters to the city council and newspaper, mostly advocating cutting the budgets of the police and fire departments, and signed them with the name Paul Mahoney.

Mahoney, who once rented from McDowell, is a U.S. Marine Corps corporal who has been serving in Afghanistan for the past year, police told the Herald.

The letters signed with Mahoney’s name also included an endorsement of school board member Mary Olea, who is McDowell’s romantic partner, according to Portsmouth police.

One charge against McDowell is that he allegedly tampered with public records by knowingly writing a letter to the city council that he knew was falsely signed and that was subsequently entered into “official permanent minutes,” according to police.

The letter was in response to a firefighters’ rally, police said.

A police captain reached Mahoney by email, and the Marine told him that the views expressed in the letters do not reflect his own opinions, that McDowell was his former landlord and that he “has never given anyone permission to write under his name,” the Herald reported.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or