Don Guarino in custody for third time for failure to appear in small-claims case
By DAVID CARKHUFF, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — A former selectman running again for the board was arrested last month for failure to appear in court over a remodeling job that a judge ruled he failed to perform.
On Feb. 15, Donald Guarino was arrested as he turned himself in with the sheriff's office, reported Belknap County Chief Deputy David Perkins. Guarino bonded out on $1,000 cash bail, Perkins said.
"It's not the first time we've dealt with him," Perkins said. "It's not the first arrest on this case." He was arrested twice last year on the same small claims charge, both times for failure to appear, Perkins said.
In the New Hampshire 6th Circuit Court in Concord, on July 29, 2015, Judge Kristin Spath found Guarino guilty of breach of contract.
Rick Watrous, a former legislator who lives with his wife in Concord, said he hired Guarino in November 2013 to work on the couple's sunroom and to shore up the foundation.
"He was supposed to install new window units and re-side the place," Watrous said.
Guarino finished the foundation work, but the couple then gave Guarino $3,000 to buy supplies including window units, and he disappeared, Watrous said. "He said he had the window units but he never delivered them," he said.
Guarino would show up for a few hours every two or three weeks and then vanish, Watrous said.
Watrous ended up firing Guarino in October 2014 "after months of frustration over him not showing up to complete the job," Watrous said.
Guarino argued in court that he didn't finish the work because Watrous fired him and found another contractor.
The court ruled that Guarino failed to fulfill the contract. Guarino offered no proof of work completed other than a receipt for $15, the court noted.
Then, almost a year ago, March 24, 2016, Judge Edward Gordon issued an arrest order for Guarino, with $500 bail, for failure to appear on the $2,971.21 owed to the Watrous family. On Aug. 18, 2016, a second arrest order was issued with $1,000 bail, on $2,583.10 owed. On Oct. 6, 2016, a third failure to appear arrest order was issued, again with $1,000 bail, also for $2,583.10 owed.
Watrous, today an adjunct professor in the community college system, said, "I'm just astounded how he thinks he can thumb his nose at the court system."
Watrous said, "He's failed to show up in court several times, and he hasn't paid a penny since May of 2016, and he still owes me approximately $2,600."
Guarino may have eluded police except that he filed to run for selectmen, Watrous said.
"The fact that he filed for selectmen led them to him. They finally collared him," he said.
Efforts to contact Guarino for comment were unsuccessful. But the candidate told The Laconia Daily Sun in a recent interview that he wanted to promote fiscal responsibility in Gilmanton.
But Guarino found himself ousted from the chairman's position on the board after public disputes, one of them involving whether to extend a contract to Town Administrator Paul Brancombe.
The former Gilmanton selectman ran afoul of the law as a selectman in late 2014. He pleaded guilty Dec. 4, 2014, in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, to a violation level charge of forging a vehicle inspection sticker.
Guarino has campaigned as a reformer, seeking to oust incumbent Marshall Bishop, the owner of Gilmanton Winery who has been embroiled in a legal dispute with the Gilmanton Planning Board.
Bishop on Tuesday said, "It's a shame, but that said, he has hurt himself."
Deeming Guarino a "nice person," Bishop said he thinks his opponent should withdraw from the race.
"He's done something bad and he needs to go on with his life, but should he run for selectman? He should step down. He really should," Bishop said.
Watrous said he has been turned off from hiring independent contractors based on his experience with Guarino. He said he and his wife turned to Lowe's home improvement store to finish the work on their home.
Guarino was suggested to them by a friend, as a handyman who also played in a rock band, he said.
Watrous said his advice to Guarino is: "Obey the court order. Pay up. Show up in court. Settle what you owe. And be done with it. I don't know how he thinks he can continue to get away with disobeying court orders."
Watrous said, "I think the voters of Gilmanton should know about this before they vote him into office."
Efforts to collect on the contract for home renovations will continue in the Concord court.
On May 4 at 8:15 a.m., Guarino is due for a failure to appear hearing in the Concord District Court.
"I am just fed up with Don Guarino. This all happened in 2014, and I'm still trying to get back the money that we paid him," Watrous said.
Don Guarino, foreground, campaigns for selectman last year. He is running again for that position this year. He was arrested last month over failure to appear in small claims court for a remodeling job he did. (File photo)