LOWELL -- Former Dracut Treasurer James Doukszewicz, fired after pleading guilty in 2006 to stealing $66,000 in town sewer funds, is suing the town to force officials to pay him $31,000 in unused sick and vacation time.
In a civil trial in Lowell Superior Court this week, Dracut officials, including acting Town Manager Ann Vandal and retired Town Manager Dennis Piendak, were called by Doukszewicz to testify about the town's policies and procedures when Doukszewicz was placed on paid leave after the theft was discovered, and then fired months later.
At the time of his departure, Doukszewicz was earning an annual salary of $79,534.
In court Tuesday, attorney Douglas Hausler, who represents Doukszewicz, highlighted the town's former buyback policy in the bylaws that requires the town to pay for unused sick and vacation time when an employee leaves for whatever reason.
After the Doukszewicz case, the bylaw was amended so that the buyback policy would not apply to people who were let go "for cause.''
Vandal testified that from 2004, Doukszewicz was embezzling town funds and not fulfilling the requirements of his job.
"He was spending time figuring out ways to manipulate the paperwork (so he wouldn't get caught), so he was not working as the town treasurer,'' Vandal testified.
Doukszewicz pleaded guilty to embezzlement and larceny over $250 in Middlesex Superior Court on June 26, 2007. He avoided jail time by agreeing to pay $66,426 in restitution to the town within 90 days. He has paid the restitution.
Doukszewicz also agreed to enter a program for gambling addicts and serve three years probation. Doukszewicz testified he waited until he was off probation before filing the lawsuit.
"You stalled until you were off probation,'' Dracut Town Counsel James Hall told Doukszewicz.
From 2004 to 2006, Doukszewicz collected cash and receipts from the Sewer Department, then took a portion of the cash for himself and created a new receipt with a lower amount to cover his tracks, according to prosecutors.
As a result of his conviction, the Middlesex County Retirement Board moved to take away Doukszewicz's pension. State law requires public employees convicted of misappropriating government funds to forfeit their pensions.
Doukszewicz forfeited his pension on July 1, 2007, and waived his right to a hearing. With his pension gone, Doukszewicz asked the town to pay him $31,000 for his unused sick time and vacation days, according to court documents. Dracut officials refused.
Dracut filed a counterclaim to the suit, claiming the money for Doukszewicz's unused time off was used to pay $42,000 in accounting and auditing costs the town incurred while investigating the sewer-fund theft.
Doukszewicz filed a response to the town's counterclaim, arguing that his criminal case did not require him to repay Dracut investigation costs as part of his conviction, so he should be reimbursed for his unused sick time and vacation days.
"Did you not think the town would look for restitution (for the audit his theft triggered)?'' Hall asked Doukszewicz in court.
Doukszewicz responded, "My attorney said not to be concerned. The (cost of a ) forensic audit (by a private auditing firm) didn't need to be incurred" because the police could have done it as part of their investigation.
Hall countered, "You embezzled money. Why is it fair" to ask the town to pay $31,000 for unused time and $42,000 for an audit?
Closing arguments are scheduled for today followed by jury deliberations.
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