WAREHAM - Town officials may have unlawfully obtained personal and confidential financial information from the assessors' computers in a townwide audit of government computers this week, according to local and state officials.
The sweep has caused a wave of speculation about the motives of the Board of Selectmen in ordering it, but those involved are staying mum.
State Department of Revenue spokesman Robert Bliss confirmed Thursday that assessors Chairman Steven F. Curry called Tuesday after learning that all of the town's computer drives were being copied by hired investigators.
"I was very upset," Curry said. "I found out about it over the weekend. I called our office and then spoke with the town administrator to voice my concern that a lot of the information taken was confidential."
Bliss said Curry was referred to the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, Section 52b, which puts a tight lid on the personal financial information that assessors gather to make decisions on such things as abatements.
Such information, it says, "shall be open to the inspection of the assessors, the commissioner, the deputies, clerks and assistants of either the assessors or the commissioner and such other officials of the commonwealth or of its political subdivisions who have occasion to inspect such information in the performance of their official duties, but no other person except by order of the appellate tax board or a court."
Curry said, "Even under the Freedom of Information Act this information is not accessible," adding, "It's strictly confidential to the assessors and the Board of Assessors and clerks in doing their job.
"Even if the town administrator and selectmen wanted a certain file, they're not authorized to have that. But they copied all the hard drives in town, and there was no notification that they were going to do it. Our records are available only by court order," Curry said. A separate warrant would have to be issued for each file, he said.
His view was seconded by New Bedford Assessor Peter S. Barney, who said "almost nobody has the right" to access highly personal information that includes such things as businesses private income and expense statements. "The only ones within City Hall would be the people in our office," he said, with the same rules applying statewide.
Interim Town Administrator John Sanguinet personally led the computer sweep along with an attorney and a computer consulting firm hired for the purpose, according to various reports. The sweep began Friday, when town offices were closed for a furlough day and no one was around. It concluded Tuesday and Wednesday.
The sweep included the Police Department's computers, where Chief Thomas Joyce was just coming off a one-week suspension issued by Sanguinet for an undisclosed reason. Various police officials contacted for a reaction said there is sensitive and confidential information on their computers.
Sanguinet did not return repeated calls from The Standard-Times.
Bruce Sauvageau, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, which ordered the sweep in a closed meeting earlier this month, was asked about the assessors' information and said, "I don't need instructions from you about what we can and cannot do. Thanks for your time." And he hung up on a reporter.
Selectmen Brenda Eckstrom's two voice mail accounts were not accepting new messages Thursday, and she could not be reached for comment. Phone messages were not returned by Selectmen Jane Donohue and Walter Cruz.
Selectman John Cronan said he learned "in a roundabout way" what the computer sweep was looking for, but deferred to Town Counsel Ilana Quirk, who did not return a phone call Thursday.
Police Chief Joyce also did not return repeated phone calls, nor did a spokeswoman for Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz. A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Martha Coakley said the office was not yet involved in any way.
With no suggestion from town officials about what they were looking for, speculation ran rampant on online discussion boards, with many suggesting town officials want to know if some of the people posting Internet comments are sitting at desks in town offices. Many accused the Board of Selectmen of a "fishing expedition" and a "witch hunt."
Even though the computer sweep was done town wide the police department is clearly the main focus. For those that don't feel like reading through the previous 20 pages, this is retaliation for selectmen Bruce Sauvageau's suspended license arrest a few months ago after he failed to pay a citation for tailgating an ambulance through a road construction zone. When stopped by the detail officer he told him to go F-himself. Sauvageau lost two citation appeals and didn't pay the citation resulting in his license suspension. Sauvageau flat out lied by claiming his license was not suspended and claimed that the judge said there was no factual basis for his arrest. I believe it was Delta784 that challenged his reporter buddy Robert Slager of the Wareham Observer to obtain Sauvageau's driving record and publish it because the license suspension will appear on his driving record and prove once and for all that Sauvageau lied. It will come as no surprise to anyone that Slager never followed through with that.
There have been other incidents involving selectmen Sauvageau including calling a Wareham Police Officer a "gutless coward" and implying that an arrest was racially motivated. When he was arrested himself is when things really started to get ugly.
FYI - Word around town is that he will not seek another term as a selectmen so he can run for Represenative Susan Williams Gifford's (R) seat in the House of Represenatives. Make no mistake about it, he is no friend of Police Officers anywhere.
WAREHAM - Federal and state income tax liens totaling $181,505.38 are on file against the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, according to records at the Plymouth County Register of Deeds.
The liens include penalties and interest and are recorded against the house at 188 Swifts Beach Road owned by the selectman, Bruce Sauvageau.
Asked prior to Tuesday's selectmen's meeting by a Standard-Times reporter to explain, Sauvageau flew into a rage for several minutes in the Town Hall parking lot, accusing the reporter of being a "hit man," an "asshole" and a "punk," and shouting that his tax problems have nothing to do with the Board of Selectmen.
He gave no answer to the question of how he could owe so much money. Instead, he loudly mocked the reporter, shouting, "that's more money than you've made in your life."
The federal tax lien, which represents the bulk of the assessments against Sauvageau, lists him as "self employed." Sauvageau refused to reveal his occupation, although several sources said he is a financial adviser.
Sauvageau is at the center of a town-wide stir created when the selectmen ordered the interim town administrator to do an "audit" of every town-owned computer outside the School Department, for undisclosed reasons.
The IRS lien against Sauvageau's home includes back taxes, interest and penalties for the years 2000 through 2004, a total of $161,670.37. The lien is dated Feb. 20, 2008.
For year 2000, he was assessed $4,064.21; for 2001, $17,886.78; for 2002, $57,633.82; for 2003, $11,940.06; for 2004, $70,145.50.
Two liens are on file from the state Department of Revenue: $8,481.27 in back taxes, interest and penalties for 2002, filed with the registry in March 2006; and $11,353.74 for 2004, filed by the state in November 2007.
The sprawling one-story house, which is listed by the town assessors as owned by Rose Sauvageau, the selectman's wife, is within view of Swift's Beach and has an assessed value of $351,700, the land portion being $170,000 and the building at $181,700. The Sauvageaus purchased the property in 1995 for $160,000, according to the records.
A Standard-Times check of the tax status of the other town selectmen turned up no similar liens or judgments. All of the selectmen are current in their town property taxes, according to the tax collector.
Steve Urbon is senior correspondent of The Standard-Times.
This just keeps getting better. Two nights ago the selectmen met in what they thought was a private meeting to discuss the computer "audit". Turns out that a live audio feed of their private meeting was accidently broadcast over the internet by a local cable access channel. They said a lot of things that revealed their true colors but the gist of their conversation is that they are out to get town employees that don't play ball their way, especially Police Officers.
I just thought of Bruce Savageau while taking a large dump today, and figured I'd revive this thread. Anything further on this douchebag, I mean it's been two plus years already! Someone tell me he washed his mouth out with buckshot please.
I had all but forgotten about this clown. It's a very good and valid question Johnny and I'd love to read he's sitting in a federal prison for tax evasion or was raped and beaten while trying to buy drugs in a bad neighborhood.
Asked prior to Tuesday's drug buy to explain his tax issues, Sauvageau flew into a rage for several minutes in the project parking lot, accusing the dealer of being a "hit man," an "asshole" and a "punk," and shouting that his tax problems have nothing to do with his crack addiction. Shortly thereafter he was raped and beaten senseless by the dealer and several friends.
I couldn't resist.
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