Former Gilmanton selectman arrested

Don Guarino in custody for third time for failure to appear in small-claims case


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.

03-08 Don Guarino from last year

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)

Still no report released on Alton officer firing at car


ALTON — Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, who will decide whether an Alton police officer who discharged his firearm at a vehicle was justified in his use of force, says that she has yet to receive the State Police report on the incident.
"I haven't heard from them yet. It looks like this will take a while," sad Guldbrandsen. No one was injured in the incident, which took place on the evening of Feb. 25 when a police officer who was at the scene of motor vehicle accident on Route 140 fired his weapon at a car which was approaching the scene.
Lt. Scott Gilbert, commander of the State Police Major Crime Unit, has said that the Belknap County Attorney will make a determination about the officer involved shooting, not the state Attorney General's office, because no one was injured in the incident.
Gilbert said that the driver of the first vehicle, who was charged with driving while intoxicated, had already been taken from the accident scene near Youngstown Road when the second incident took place.
He said the police officer fired a single round "because of the manner in which the vehicle was being operated." Gilbert said the vehicle came to a stop and that driver was taken into custody.
The arrest was made by Gilford police, who had been called upon for assistance by the Alton police.
Gilford police arrested Erik Klerk, 50, of Alton, who was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated.
Gilbert said earlier that it would be premature to release the name of the Alton police officer who fired the shot as the investigation of the incident has not yet been completed. State Police said that they were able to speak with the diver of a U-haul truck who was driving by at the time the incident as well as two or three others who have witnessed the event.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at Manchester drug summit


MANCHESTER — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a surprise speaker at Southern New Hampshire University Arena Tuesday at the Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness. He harkened back to Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign and said this kind of an anti-drug message is needed again.

"The most effective solution in the 1980s and early '90s – when, for example, we saw a significant decline in teen drug use – was the prevention campaign," he said. "People began to stop using drugs. Drug users were not cool. Crime fell dramatically, and addiction fell, too. We can do this again. We have proven that education and telling people the terrible truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices. Drug use will fall. Lives will be saved."

The results of the "Just Say No" campaign were actually decidedly mixed as there was a major upswing in the use of cocaine in the 1980s. A study by Scientific American in 2014 found that the campaign even backfired in some cases, inadvertently conveying "the impression that alcohol and tobacco are innocuous by comparison."

Sessions, a former U.S. Attorney in Alabama, said prevention, criminal enforcement and treatment are the three main ways to tackle the problem.

Jacqui Abikoff, of Horizons Counseling Center in Laconia, said the three-pronged approach is a traditional message.

All three aspects are equally important, she said.

"It's kind of like a three-legged stool, if you take away one leg, it falls," she said. "It would be lovely if we could focus all of our attention on the onset of substance abuse in young people, but what about people who are already suffering?

"Treatment is actually the first step in prevention. If you can treat people and bring them into recovery you are creating a role model for the next generation."

The Attorney General said treatment is important but often "comes too late."

"Individuals have already lost their jobs and flunked their tests," he said. "Then the struggle to defeat addiction can be a long process – and it can fail. Experts will tell you that recovery is not certain. For many, addiction can be a death sentence."

He also promised to go after drug traffickers.

"Criminal enforcement is essential to stopping the transnational criminal organizations which ship drugs into our country, and to stop the thugs and gangs who use violence and extortion to move their product," he said.

"The president has issued an executive order to the Department of Justice to dismantle these organizations and gangs. We are going to get rid of them. Of that you can be sure."

Abikoff agreed that enforcement is important.

"People need to have an incentive not to use drugs and sometimes having consequences that are brought about by enforcement of our drug laws is just the incentive they need to keep them in treatment," she said.

"Enforcement also helps keep down the supply."

The supply of fentanyl and methamphetamine represents the biggest current concern in terms of drug abuse and addiction, she said.

The summit drew thousands of middle and high school students from all over the state, and was presented by the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation in conjunction with DEA 360, a program of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Among the speakers were Gov. Chris Sununu, a DEA agent, a Patriots player and a former Miami Marlins pitcher.