Ansonia Employee Says He Should Not Be Suspended
by Eugene Driscoll | Aug 30, 2012 6:17 pm
Posted to: Ansonia, Ansonia Tax Investigation
John Tomasella, one of four city employees who received a car tax “clearance” stamp from former tax collector Bridget Bostic even though he still owed money, said Thursday he had no idea he improperly received the document until he read his name in the Valley Independent Sentinel.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t care about my name being out there or on channel 8 because I know who my friends are. But I didn’t do anything wrong,” Tomasella said.
The car tax “releases” signed by Bostic stated that the residents had paid their car taxes, which allowed them to renew their vehicle registrations when, in fact, they owed money.
The Valley Indy showed that Bostic gave releases to her mother and to three people who either worked for the city or volunteered on a city board or commission.
The report raised questions as to favoritism and competency in the tax office.
An internal “fact finding” report named two additional city workers who received the releases, including Tomasella, an 18-year veteran of the Department of Public Works.
Bostic’s actions are being reviewed by the chief’s state’s attorney’s office.
After her resignation Tuesday, the Ansonia Board of Aldermen requested Mayor James Della Volpe investigate the city employees who received the car tax releases from Bostic — presumably to determine whether they knew they weren’t supposed to receive them.
The first step in that investigation started Thursday, with Tomasella receiving a letter from city labor counsel Fran Teodosio.
Teodosio confirmed he drafted four letters that were to be distributed to four city employees.
The letters place them on suspension with pay as of Sept. 4. Hearings are scheduled for noon Sept. 12 in Ansonia City Hall.
Disciplinary action — ranging from a verbal warning to termination — is possible.
Tomasella said he doesn’t deserve to be suspended, let alone disciplined.
“I’m upset and I think it is time for me to explain my situation,” he said during a phone interview Thursday.
Tomasella, a father of three, said he fell behind on mortgage payments when he and his wife were divorced in 2011. He fell behind on his taxes, too. The couple got back together later in 2011, but the financial damage was done.
“In the meantime, the mortgage fell behind, everything fell behind,” he said.
Tomasella concentrated on saving his home and decided to file for bankruptcy.
In July 2011, he needed to register his truck. He went to the tax office in Ansonia City Hall to pay his motor vehicle taxes. He said he explained his financial troubles to Bostic, including his plan to file for bankruptcy.
Bostic said since he was filing for bankruptcy, he was entitled to get the car tax clearance.
“Her and I talked and I told her the same story I just told you. She said ‘John, you file bankruptcy, that takes care of your taxes.’ She stamped my ticket,” he said.
“I moved on with my life,” Tomasella said.
If he was in the bankruptcy process, Bostic could have legitimately issued the car tax release to Tomasella even though he owed car taxes.
The problem — Bostic didn’t ask Tomasella for any actual documentation showing he was in bankruptcy. That fact was noted in the city’s “fact finding” probe. The city’s report is published at the end of this article.
As it turns out, Tomasella never actually filed for bankruptcy.
Instead, he was placed in the foreclosure mediation process in Superior Court in Milford. Bankruptcy is still a possible outcome of that process.
“I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to receive the stamp. She told me it was OK,” Tomasella said. “If Bridget said ‘John, you have to actually file bankruptcy before you can get this,’ that would have been it. I went there to pay them. She told me ‘You get a stamp when you go to bankruptcy.’”
Tomasella, who said he has since paid his back car taxes, told the Valley Indy that he explained his situation to Della Volpe.
“I didn’t know that you were actually supposed to file before you got the stamp. It’s not my job to know that. The tax collector is supposed to know that,” he said.
The letter he received from Teodosio accuses him of submitting paperwork to the Department of Motor Vehicles “stating that the Ansonia motor vehicle taxes were paid in full and current for vehicles owned by you. You did this knowing that they were not paid.”
Tomasella said that simply isn’t true.
“I did nothing wrong,” he said. “I should not be sent home. I guess they want to find out if anymore discipline is warranted. Discipline for what?” he asked. “I never asked for a stamp or a favor.”
Della Volpe said Thursday he had to protect the integrity of the Sept. 12 hearing so he could not comment specifically on Tomasella’s case.
The mayor said the purpose of the hearing will be to listen and question the city employees.
“The purpose is to find out how they actually received the tax release,” Della Volpe said.
The other city employees to be suspended are: James Hooker, Kevin Cegelka and Leslie Jamison.
Alderman John Marini said the hearing is the right thing to do to make sure everyone is treated fairly.
“When the tax collector was implicated in this, she was suspended pending an investigation. I think it’s important to repeat the same process for all the other individuals,” Marini said.
The letter Thursday from Teodosio to Tomasella, as read to the Valley Indy by Tomasella:
“Dear John Tomasella,
The City of Ansonia Office of the Mayor is in receipt of information that you presented false paperwork to the State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. Specifically you presented paperwork stating that the Ansonia motor vehicle taxes were paid in full and current for vehicles owned by you. You did this knowing that they were not paid. As a result of this conduct, effective Sept. 4, 2012 you are hereby suspended from employment with pay.
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 at 12 p.m. in the Erlingheuser Room of Ansonia City Hall, a fact finding hearing will be held regarding this matter. At that time you may attend the hearing to present your position concerning this issue. You may present information or evidence on your behalf. Please, however, understand you will be further questioned regarding this matter.
You are entitled to attend the hearing with a representative of your choice, union rep or an attorney. As a result of this hearing you may be further disciplined. Such discipline may include permanent suspension or termination and forfeiture of your rights, privileges and entitlements under the current collective bargaining agreement. The hearing will be held in closed session unless you prefer it opened to the public.”
The city’s “fact finding” report:
You gutless wonder! Throw the Tax Collector under the bus but leave out all the pertinent facts that would be incriminating to you. You know who your friends are? I hope your friends know who they are because you would throw all of them under a bus in a NY minute if you could benefit from it!
I have to agree with Linda, Although i don’t know all the facts…. My name popped up on the bankrupcy radar on the tax office computer without an explanation of what my financial plan was. It’s public information. Secondly, If taxes are not paid, Why should the tax payer working a non union job, non city job foot the bill for a paid suspension. If criminal charges are filed and discharge is achieved - do I get a check in the mail retroactive? NO OFCOURSE NOT!.
Lets really look at reality!
Chain of command! - there is no accountability from the Mayor, tax collector, and in reality - be real- you know if you owe taxes! ignorance of the law is no excuse right? just like taking pictures of private property from a city sidewalk and almost being arrested for it. it comes down to accepting forged documents!. and any educated person would scream “Perjury”
and lets turn the page, fire the lawn nazy!
By the way, the Szegelka family loves to scream at neighbors including myself and call the cops on me- if anyone wants to know how he used city plow trucks in the winter while I pushed snow out of his driveway and he used his designated city truck and 3 other trucks behind him waiting for me to finish his driveway - I’ll be more than happy to tell the story - courtesy of Salvatrice