The City of Derby is planning to file a lawsuit against a former tax clerk who allegedly “damaged” the city to the tune of $9,000.
The former employee, Katherine Kulhawik, was supposed to be paying Derby $400 a month in restitution — but she hasn’t paid since February.
“Right now, the city is owed $1,965 from the $9,000,” Board of Aldermen President Barbara DeGennaro said during a meeting Thursday (July 25).
Kulhawik was escorted from Derby City Hall in June 2012, after a resident who paid her car taxes in cash complained to city tax collector Denise Cesaroni that the Department of Motor Vehicles was questioning a receipt issued from the tax office.
That kicked off an internal investigation conducted by Derby Corporation Counsel Joseph Coppola.
In August of 2012, Kulhawik and the Board of Aldermen hammered out a “separation agreement,” which is published at the end of this article.
In the agreement, both sides acknowledged Kulhawik “may have” mishandled cash, misapplied tax payments, deleted cash payments, manipulated data and suspended tax billing statements — and that the city sustained $9,000 in “damages.”
The agreement allowed Kulhawik to resign. She promised not to sue or file a grievance with her union.
Derby promised not to file a police report as long as Kulhawik paid them $5,000 by September 2012 — which she did.
Kulhawik was then supposed to pay $400 a month, with the last payment due Aug. 1, 2013.
But those payments stopped five months ago, according to DeGennaro, who retrieved the info from the city’s finance department and then asked that the matter be discussed at the Aldermen meeting.
Coppola said the matter is heading to court.
“I hired attorney (Keith) Murray from Ansonia to sue her,” Coppola said at Thursday’s meeting.
“It’s nice that we know,” DeGennaro replied, “because people have been asking me as their Alderwoman, and I didn’t have an answer.”
In an interview after the meeting, Coppola said a lawsuit wouldn’t proceed if Kulhawik paid the money she owes by Aug. 1. He said the city sent letters regarding her missed payments to both her and her attorney but have not received a response.
Derby lost the option to file a complaint with law enforcement once Kulhawik made the the first, $5,000 payment, per the agreement approved by the majority of the Board of Aldermen.
Only DeGennaro and Art Gerckens voted against the agreement, which was approved Aug. 23, 2012.
The Derby tax clerk problem was one of several scandals to hit local town halls since 2009.
The way Derby officials handled their employee trouble differed from the way neighboring towns handled their own internal problems. In the other cases, an external entity was brought in to investigate.
In Ansonia, where the former tax collector gave out receipts to people saying they had paid their car taxes when they had not, a fact-finding report was made public and then handed over to the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office.
In Shelton, the state police were contacted to probe whether an employee stole funds. A criminal case and a civil lawsuit against the employee is pending.
The state police were also contacted in Oxford, where the former tax collector is serving a jail sentence for stealing money. A civil lawsuit against the employee is pending.