Wareham officer files unfair firing suit against town

Steve Urbon | SouthCoastToday

WAREHAM — Detective Lt. Donald Bliss has filed suit in U.S. District Court against an array of town officials and one private citizen, seeking unspecified damages for allegedly orchestrating his unjustified firing in February 2009 and ruining his life and the life of his family.

Bliss won a unanimous Civil Service Commission ruling last May, getting his job back along with back pay, which amounted to more than $200,000. His legal expenses were covered by a police defense fund to which he contributed.

The Civil Service trial, conducted by Commissioner Paul Stein, took three days. Stein would later rule that Bliss was wrongfully terminated for “improper personal motives and undue political influence which have no place in a merit-based civil service system.”

That trial did not explore in detail the motivations behind the firing but rather the actions carried out to set up Bliss for termination: allegations of misuse of a cellphone and of improperly showing up in uniform to sell an alarm system (his sideline) to Lisa Bindas of Maple Strings Road.

Bindas is named in the suit along with former acting Town Administrator John Sanguinet and past and present selectmen Bruce Sauvageau, Brenda Eckstrom, Jane Donohue, John Cronan and James Potter.

The suit contends these individuals came after Bliss following his promotion to lieutenant over a female officer who was friendly with selectmen, Donahue in particular. It was a contention that Stein noted wasn’t backed by evidence in the trial, but the trial never sought to explore the allegation and Stein left it out of the decision.

Bliss contends his firing strained his marriage, caused him severe emotional trauma leading to alcohol abuse, ruined his family’s credit, possibly for good, and cost him his stellar reputation in the community because people were speculating on what he had actually done wrong.

During testimony in 2009 Stein once paused to make the observation that Bliss appeared to have been an exemplary police officer.

A spokesman for Blatman Bobrowski & Mead of Newburyport, the firm legally representing Wareham, told The Standard-Times there would be no comment since the town officials haven’t yet been served. Bindas could not be reached for comment Wednesday or Thursday.