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Ansonia Officials Owe Car Taxes But Don’t Suffer The Consequences

by Jodie Mozdzer Gil | Jul 18, 2012 7:51 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia, Ansonia Tax Investigation, Investigations, Your Right To Know

At least three Ansonia public officials received a signed document from the tax collector’s office saying they were up to date on motor vehicle taxes even though they owed money.

The authorization from the tax collector allowed the three officials to register their cars with the Department of Motor Vehicles despite the fact they hadn’t paid their car taxes in years.

The revelation — uncovered after a Valley Independent Sentinel investigation — raises questions regarding the management of the Ansonia Tax Collector’s Office and whether preferential treatment is given to people with connections to City Hall.

The three people who received a questionable green light from the tax collector are either City of Ansonia employees or volunteers on local boards and commissions.

A fourth person — who shares the same last name as Tax Collector Bridget Bostic — also received a receipt from the tax collector saying her car taxes were paid, even though she owed car taxes dating back to the 1990s.

The four residents owed a combined $16,666 in car taxes to the city as of June 28.

The people who received the tax clearance from the Ansonia Tax Collector’s Office are: Marion C. Bostic, whose relationship, if any, to the tax collector is unknown; Kevin Cegelka, a city employee and member of the Inland Wetlands Commission; James Hooker, an Ansonia Department of Public Works employee, and; Diane Stroman, a volunteer on the city’s Elderly Services Commission.

A key question still unanswered — how many other Ansonia residents have received a proof of payment from the tax collector yet still owe back car taxes?

What The . . .?

The Valley Indy began asking questions about tax payments in February, after two Ansonia Aldermen, at a public meeting, questioned whether public officials owed back taxes.

Ansonia Tax Collector Bridget Bostic repeatedly declined to comment to the Valley Indy on the matter.

The Valley Indy began submitting a series of requests to Ansonia City Hall under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

A city attorney at first wanted to charge the Valley Indy an exorbitant amount of money — up to $1,000 — for the city’s tax delinquency lists. Officials also initially claimed it would take a long time to research which public officials owed taxes — but the documents show they already collect the information.

A review of the documents eventually released by the city showed that 30 employees and city officials owed the city about $50,000 combined on all types of taxes as of June 28, 2012.

Several of those people owed back car taxes going back years.

The unpaid car taxes raised a red flag — how can they be driving motor vehicles if state law dictates car taxes must be paid before a car registration is renewed?

A state DMV spokesman said the three vehicle registrations were valid because the individuals provided proof from the Ansonia Tax Collector’s office that the back taxes had been paid.

Yet the same individuals were still listed in City Hall as owing back taxes.

On July 10 — after a series of interviews with the state DMV and no response from the Ansonia tax collector — the Valley Indy e-mailed Bostic and Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe a number of questions about the matter.

Della Volpe and city attorney Kevin Blake met with the Valley Indy on July 11. The mayor said he would look into why the clearances were given to people who owed thousands of dollars worth of taxes to the city.

“If mistakes have been made, we’re certainly going to correct them. If somebody needs to be punished, I’m going to investigate and I’ll hand out discipline if I have to,” Della Volpe said.

An interview scheduled for July 12 in Ansonia City Hall between the Valley Indy, Bostic and Della Volpe was canceled after Bostic did not come to work for personal reasons, the mayor said.

Della Volpe then said the city would provide answers to the Valley Indy’s questions in writing.

The written answers had not arrived as of July 18.

The ‘Tax Clearance’

The “tax clearance” document is either a stamp on the back of a DMV renewal form or an Ansonia Tax Office notice (pictured) telling the DMV the taxes are paid and that the person should be allowed to register his or her vehicle.

There are two legitimate reasons why a tax collector would give a resident a car tax clearance notice, according to area tax collectors and DMV officials interviewed for this story:

1. The person’s taxes were paid in full.

2. The taxpayer is going through the bankruptcy process.

Neither of these reasons apply to the four people who received tax clearance notices from the Ansonia Tax Collector’s Office.

Tax collectors do not have discretion as to who receives a tax clearance and who doesn’t. Financial hardship is not supposed to apply to the situation.

“The state statutes are written so that everyone gets treated equally,” said Cinda Buchter, the former Derby tax collector who is the president of the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association. “We aren’t the judge and jury as to whether we feel sympathetic enough for you and not the next guy to give a clearance. The state statutes are written so it’s very clear that all taxes have to be paid.”

PHOTO: Ethan Fry“In order to receive the release, they have to pay in cash and they have to pay in full,” said Denise Cesaroni, Derby’s current tax collector.

A spokesman for the Office of Policy and Management echoed those views of the local tax collectors.

“Tax collectors pretty much all follow the same rule: if a delinquent taxpayer pays with cash or a bank or certified check, they will issue a release upon receipt; if the delinquent taxpayer pays with a personal check, the collector will issue the release when the check clears,” OPM spokesman GianCarl Casa said in an e-mail.

While many in the lower Valley are struggling financially due to the economy, the rules on car tax receipts are clear.

“We need to treat all of our taxpayers the same,” Buchter said. “That doesn’t mean we are not personally sympathetic to their issues. It does mean we are not the judge to what someone is entitled to. They are only entitled to a clearance if they have paid all their taxes.”

A Closer Look

Why these four people received clearance from the tax collector while owing back taxes is not clear. Some owe taxes on several cars.

One recently paid her back car taxes.

The list as of June 28, with details:

Name: Marion C. Bostic (relationship to tax collector unknown)

Taxes owed: $4,839.90 on two cars dating back to 1997

Details of DMV Re-Registration: On April 4, 2012, Bostic re-registrered a 2007 Toyota Corolla. A spokesman for the DMV said Bostic had a stamped and signed notice from the Ansonia Tax Office that indicated she had paid her taxes dating back to 2006.

Bostic was unable to be reached for comment.

Name: Kevin Cegelka, city employee and member of the Inland Wetlands Commission

Taxes owed: $2,406.99 on a 2004 BMW X3, dating back to 2007.

Details of DMV Re-Registration: On Feb. 9, 2012, Cegelka was able to renew registration on two cars, with a waiver from the Ansonia tax office saying he had paid back taxes
on his car.

Attempts to reach Cegelka for comment were unsuccessful.

Name: James Hooker, city employee (Ansonia Public Works)

Taxes Owed: $6,933.04 on six cars — including two Cadillac Escalades — that date back to 2007.

Details of DMV Re-Registration: On June 24, 2011, Hooker renewed registrations on three of his cars. He had a stamped notice, signed by a B. Bostic, saying he had paid his taxes dating back to 2005.

Hooker did not return calls for comment.

Name: Diane Stroman, member of the Elderly Services Commission

Taxes Owed: $2,486.67 on two cars, dating back to 2006 and 2008. On July 2, 2012, Stroman paid off all back taxes on the cars.

Details of DMV Re-Registration: On Jan. 12, 2012, Stroman renewed registration on her two cars, using an Ansonia Tax Office clearance stamp on the back of the renewal form, according to DMV records.

Stroman said she had received the clearance because she was on a payment plan.

Who Else?

The Valley Indy also queried the state DMV about two other public officials who owed more than two years worth of back car taxes.

PHOTO: Ethan FryHowever, since the Valley Indy could not provide the DMV with their birth dates (in addition to home addresses and names), the DMV would not release information about whether they received clearance letters.

In addition to questionable tax clearances, the Ansonia Tax Collector’s Office hasn’t sent a list of delinquent taxpayers to the state DMV since October 2010.

Sending the list is supposed to prevent the delinquent taxpayers from registering their vehicles. The idea is to get the taxpayer into City Hall to pay the back taxes. Ansonia pays $3,400 a year to the DMV for the service, even though the city hasn’t used it since 2010.

Ansonia’s lack of action means there is an untold number of residents driving around the city with “valid” registrations — but they owe car taxes dating back two years.

“Tax collection is not a function of the DMV,” said Ernie Bertothy, a spokesman for the DMV. “We assist cities and towns with a system that is only as good as the information that is provided to DMV.”

Unanswered Questions

The Valley Independent Sentinel e-mailed the following questions to Della Volpe and Bostic on July 10:

  • How many tax waivers did the Ansonia Tax Office issue in the past year? In the past five years?
  • What is the city policy for giving out such waivers?
  • Is there any legitimate instance a tax waiver would be given out if someone still owes taxes to the city?
  • Why hasn’t Ansonia sent a list of tax delinquent accounts to the Department of Motor Vehicles since October 2010?

The Valley Indy also asked what the city was doing in response to unpaid taxes by city officials and employees.

“In regards to city employees (who owe back taxes), we’ve sent them letters like we’ve sent to any other taxpayer, from what I understand,” Della Volpe said on July 11. “They’ve been hit just as hard as everybody else.”

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Comments

posted by: Mary C. Gibson on July 18, 2012  8:48pm

This is totally unfair.  It doesn’t matter who owes back taxes, everyone should pay what is owed before being able to register an automobile.

I know of a tax payer in town that had to pay $4,000 in back car taxes in order to register an automobile regardless of the financial situation at the time.  There wasn’t any payment plan offered it had to be paid in full.

Budgets for city departments had to be cut due to a lack of money; yet, this is allowed to continue.  NO, NO, NO.

posted by: Joseph Coppola on July 18, 2012  9:28pm

Talk about a huge pile of B.S. This is a joke. Can’t wait to see the excuse that comes out on this one. If the tax collector is not punished at the very least since they are the ones signing this release I won’t know how to take any of these city officials seriously

posted by: Marie Hynds on July 19, 2012  1:22am

if you go to the city of ansonia home page you can see who owes what. you can put a name in or a street name and see who owes what its so easy now that its online

posted by: Bob Bomba 193 on July 19, 2012  5:07am

Thats just wrong on so many levels I myself went to the tax office on july 5 of this year I had to re=new my registration I had to get it stamped because I paid late last year and it was never cleared which I dont understand why we spend all this money state and local to have computer systems and they dont seem to work I was treated so badly by the tax collector I was anoyed about being told she would not sign it Taxes for this year were not due Its says aug 1 it was july 5 . I left went to put money in the bank to pay went back to tax office and was again refused Now she tells me I need a bank check or cash.. Im thinking this is so annoying so again i left and went to draw cash out of the bank so now thats three trips to city hall I have issues walking so it makes it more of a pain up and down the steps to be treated like dirt. No mateer if i was screaming yealling swearing the tax collector had no right to treat me like she did Our taxes pay for her to keep her job right? I guess it dont matter in ansonia She is supposed to make sure I understand what is wrong and what is required to do this and resolve it once amnd for all. Like many others times are tough for us no other solutin was offered to this matter as i said my taxes were paid it just never got caught up in the computer that i paid late i needed the registration so i was forced to not pay something else in order to do this and get out of there Now i see if your connected in town hall you can get away without paying at all.. This tax office needs to be corrected and put someone in there who can work well with ALL others not just a chosen few.

posted by: Samantha Brown on July 19, 2012  8:05am

This is the same city that told me the bank did not pay my house tax when in fact they did. I received a notice they were putting a lien on my property when after fighting with the town and my bank it turned out the town made the error. The same thing happened to my friend on their car tax. They paid it and the city said no you did not. Now we make sure we get a receipt for everything.  I am a bookkeeper/accountant and would love the job as tax collector. These things would not happen if I was there. I make sure all my t’s are crossed and everything is done right. Take pride in your job and make sure you do what you are suppose to do and no one gets away with anything. If you are going to run the dept half way then this is not the job for you.

posted by: Thomas Harbinson on July 19, 2012  9:01am

Freedom of the Press is an important part of democracy.  The Newspapers of our nearby big cities do not have the degree of local journalism like this.  Hats off to ValleyIndy for shining light on an issue for the public that would otherwise not be seen, and causing accountability to brought back into government.  Regarding local officials response: When you bury your head in the sand, the only thing that results is your a$$ gets sunburned.

posted by: Eugene Driscoll on July 19, 2012  10:19am

We just removed a comment because it violated our commenting policies. Please refrain from name calling. Thank you!

posted by: Eugene Driscoll on July 19, 2012  10:36am

We removed a second comment. Please don’t make unsubstantiated claims under anonymous Facebook accounts. Thank you!

posted by: Eugene Driscoll on July 19, 2012  11:18am

PUT YOUR NAME ON IT

posted by: Jorge A. Calvo on July 19, 2012  11:35am

Well this is aggravating as I myself owe car taxes and had to take a car off the road until I can afford to pay. What I’m curious to know is what tax evasion laws will be applied to both parties - clearly the tax collector as well as the people accepting the stamp knowingly that they didn’t pay! That’s just the same as receiving stolen goods!. Oh well, we’ll see where this goes.

posted by: Chris Altieri on July 19, 2012  4:01pm

James Hooker, who owes the most ($6900+)....Is the same guy who stole a city snowplow for scrap???

http://valley.newhavenindependent.org/archives/entry/Warrant_Details_Ansonia_Plow_Theft/

If it is how does this guy still have a job??

posted by: Jorge A. Calvo on July 19, 2012  8:53pm

before I comment any further would like to see the outcome of this. Like I said, it is disturbing that 4 clerical errors where made on all city officials of one type or the other be it public works employees, board members, and or undisclosed relationship to the tax collector. The statement made by Diane Stroman is grounds for a discrimination class action law suit against the city being that the rest of ansonia can not establish a “Payment Plan”
furthermore - I would love to see what the interest accumulated and late fee structure is on the non paid taxes of the individuals. I would think that would determine criminal intent.
As the president of Woodbridge Approach Homeowners Association I will be looking closer to non payment homeowners with close ties to city hall.
I as a homeowner have to pay my taxes. if I own a motor vehicle, I pay a new instituted water quality tax, sewer tax, etc. - I’m sure my home would be in auction for back taxes.
And by the way, quick question, wasn’t the Mayors son busted on a D.W.I. and hit a car - what was the court ruling? and was there influence on that decision?——

Like I always said - It’s who you know!

posted by: Joseph Coppola on July 20, 2012  8:20am

I say we all boycott paying our car taxes until our fearless leader “The Mayor” comes down with a ruling. Nothing would sit worse with me after I pay over $500 in car taxes then nothing comes of this. Looks as though Ansonia may get my check a tad bit late this year…

posted by: Eugene Driscoll on July 20, 2012  8:26am

We covered the car crash referenced in a comment above. He was treated in court just like anyone else, at least from our observation. http://valley.newhavenindependent.org/archives/entry/alcohol_education_program_granted_for_vince_della_volpe/

posted by: Cassie Addenbrooke-Venson on July 20, 2012  9:34am

So, the town doesn’t have enough money for our children’s education but it has plenty to let their employees not pay taxes??  We now see one of the reasons our taxes are going to go up this year.  There has been way too many issues these past few years with the town for the residents to just keep sitting and watching it do worse than the previous year.  I tried to be involved with the education budget and it was clear the town is not thinking of our future and now this.  Ansonia is a strong, we need to use our voices and stop letting the same few who run it mess us all up.

posted by: Mariann Riccio on July 20, 2012  4:56pm

are you kidding me if we don’t pay our taxs we are not going to get this favor not fair.why are these people getting this . don’t they make enough money, if not learn what happens just like the rest of us. bull

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