Letter from fired police officer’s lawyer to town prompts town to cut $207,000 check

By Jaime Rebhan | Wareham Week

Nearly a month since the town was notified of damages in excess of $230,000 owed to Wareham Police Lieutenant Donald Bliss for his wrongful termination, Bliss has still not received the money. The delay prompted Bliss’ lawyer, Andrew J. Gambaccini, to notify the town Tuesday that he would be seeking payment through Superior Court. The town has since said it is processing a $207,000 check, Gambaccini said.

In a Tuesday, July 5 letter from Gambaccini to Special Town Counsel Steven A. Torres, Gambaccini said the town has “proven itself unwilling to make payment” and will ask the court to seize and sell police cruisers and items from Town Administrator Mark Andrews’ office to cover the town’s obligation to Bliss – currently more than $233,000 and accruing roughly $530 each week it goes unpaid.

Gambaccini said he’d received word from the town after it received the letter that “a check is being processed in the amount of $207,636.97.” Bliss said he’d need to see a breakdown of the numbers “to determine whether the Town’s figures are appropriate,” since that amount is less than what Bliss is owed.

Andrews said he had no comment on the matter.

More than two years after he was fired from his position with the Wareham Police Department for alleged violations of state ethics laws, the state Civil Service Commission determined in May that Bliss, a 24-year veteran of the force, was wrongfully discharged.

In addition to the award of back pay plus interest, Bliss was given his job back. He returned to work last month. Since returning, he has not been given a take-home vehicle, as other lieutenants have, Gambaccini wrote in the letter.

“Since [Police Chief Richard Stanley] has singled out Lieutenant Bliss by denying him a take-home vehicle while the chief and the junior lieutenants have such vehicles, beginning the process of attachment and execution with those vehicles would be an appropriate starting point,” Gambaccini wrote.

Testimony at the Civil Service Commission hearing on Bliss’ termination indicated that then-Town Administrator John Sanguinet had been holding funds in an escrow account to cover any potential obligation to Bliss.

In the letter, Gambaccini wrote that since the town was taking so long to pay, “the only fair conclusion to draw is that the escrow account was raided for some purpose since the Commission hearing.”

As for the reason for seeking property from the town administrator’s office, Gambaccini wrote: “Since it would be unusual for Mr. Sanguinet to have accessed the account he had assisted in creating for a purpose other than its intended use, I presume that Mr. Sanguinet’s replacement, Mr. Andrews, was involved in the accessing.”