Bridget Bostic resigned as Ansonia’s tax collector in August 2012 after a Valley Indy story detailed her practice of dispensing receipts to people who had not paid their car taxes.
Or so you were told.
Unbeknownst to the public, the tax collector was allowed to rescind her resignation two weeks after officials publicly announced she had quit.
She then left public service through an early retirement, as state prosecutors reviewed a “fact-finding” report prepared by Ansonia city lawyers.
The new information was included in a spreadsheet released by the city eight weeks ago as part of a Valley Indy review of retirement data for about 70 city employees.
Records show that by rescinding her resignation and opting for early retirement, Bostic was allowed to return to the city’s health insurance plan for four months.
The move also allowed her to start receiving pension payments of $551.74 per month — or $6,620.88 annually — according to Tara Downes, a spokeswoman for the state comptroller’s office.
Had she not rescinded her resignation, Bostic, 42, would have had to wait until reaching retirement age to start receiving those payments.
A question that remains unanswered — why did city officials who knew about Bostic’s deal keep it from the public?
Bostic’s resignation and subsequent withdrawal are embedded below.
In August 2012, then-Mayor James Della Volpe announced Bostic’s resignation in public at the start of an Aldermen meeting.
He said at the time it was not negotiated nor accepted as part of a separation agreement.
But the Aldermen were never told publicly that her resignation was rescinded and that she was allowed to take an early retirement. Two Aldermen interviewed for this story — a Democrat and a Republican — both said they weren’t told in private, either.
Three months after she took early retirement, Della Volpe continued to state publicly that Bostic resigned.
Here is Della Volpe answering questions from David Cassetti about the matter in December 2012 during the public portion period of an Ansonia Aldermen meeting.
The resignation is mentioned 25 seconds into the video.
Cassetti, who later unseated Della Volpe as mayor in the 2013 election, said the Della Volpe Democrats made a side deal with Bostic in an effort to minimize the embarrassment of a City Hall scandal and to allow Bostic to bow out gracefully.
“I think a deal was struck behind the scenes,” Cassetti said.
The Valley Indy left a voicemail for Della Volpe Oct. 1. An email seeking comment was sent to Bostic Oct. 7.
Members of former Mayor Della Volpe’s administration said there was no side deal with Bostic, and that she was afforded the rights of any other city employee.
Tara Kolakowski worked as Della Volpe’s chief of staff and was the city’s acting personnel director.
She was aware of Bostic’s early retirement, but said in an email to the Valley Indy that city lawyers handled personnel matters, per the city’s policy.
“Personally my point of reference was to utilize the city’s attorneys i.e. labor counsel where personnel matters were concerned,” Kolakowski wrote in an e-mail.
A 2012 Valley Indy investigation showed that the tax collector had given out questionable tax documents to four people — her mother, two city employees and a city volunteer.
The documents said they didn’t owe car taxes when, in fact, they owed more than $16,000 in back car taxes combined.
The document — called a “tax clearance” — allowed the people to continue registering their automobiles with the state Department of Motor Vehicles even though they owed money locally.
The story launched an internal “fact finding” investigation by Ansonia lawyers.
The lawyers confirmed the Valley Indy’s reporting and alleged two more city employees had received preferential treatment.
Bostic was put on administrative leave, and her resignation was publicly announced a short time later.
The fact-finding report was handed over to a prosector, city officials said, but nothing ever came of it.
Nine days after Bostic resigned, the city paid her $1,416.83 or unused sick, vacation, and personal days.
She killed her resignation on Sept. 12, 2012.
Bostic had been hired by the city in May 1996, at the age of 22, and worked for Ansonia for 16 years.
Fran Teodosio, the city’s labor lawyer at the time of the tax collector’s resignation, told the Valley Indy he didn’t remember all the specifics of Bostic’s early retirement, but that it followed the rules laid out in employee contracts for both union and non-union personnel.
He said employees who took early retirements were not required to go to the Board of Aldermen for review.
“She said ‘I’m out, I’m resigning,’” Teodosio said. “Then she took early retirement. She was out and then she was in, and then she was out again. I think the point was, they wanted her out.”
Joe Garrison is a New Haven-based lawyer who specializes in employment-related cases.
He said in general, a retirement is better for an employee’s future job prospects than a resignation.
“Retirement’s pretty neutral. A resignation, you would always wonder, ‘Why would somebody resign?’” Garrison said. “It seems to me that it’s probably better for future employment possibilities to work out a retirement if you can.”
Aldermen In The Dark, Too
Democrat Edward Adamowski has been serving on the Board of Aldermen for six years. He is currently trying to unseat Cassetti, a Republican mayor finishing out his first term.
Adamowski said he was not aware Bostic rescinded her resignation, either.
“People do things wrong. People do things wrong in their administration. That’s the way it goes,” Adamowski said. “Yes, you’re the mayor, everything falls with you. But you can’t watch everybody every single second of every single day. It’s how you handle it.”
John Marini was on the Board of Aldermen when Bostic resigned. He is currently working for the city as its corporation counsel.
He said the Aldermen were in the midst of trying to sort out what Bostic allegedly did when she resigned.
Marini questioned why the legislators were kept in the dark about her early retirement.
“Under this (Cassetti’s) administration, I really don’t think it would be correct to let an employee simply go off scot free on the precipice of an investigation over that employee’s conduct,” Marini said. “Allowing a typical retirement, no questions asked, before you even come to a conclusion of the investigation seems irresponsible.”
He said the city may have had discretion not to pay a little more than $1,400 in sick, vacation, and personal time to Bostic — as well as have her on the city’s insurance plan — depending on the results of investigations by law enforcement and city officials.
“Looking back, should that person have been treated like any other employee looking to resign?” he said. “That person had the ability obviously to resign at any point, but they were under an investigation.”
In an email, Kolakowski said the Cassetti administration is demonizing its predecessors. She said the city followed the rules with Bostic and other city employees.
She urged the city to move forward.
“During my time with the City of Ansonia I know employees retired; employees that worked for the City, giving their best effort daily,” she said in an email. “Employees who retired received benefits in accordance with their union or non-union contracts.”
Kolakowski, who is currently running for city treasurer, said the city can proceed “without publicly attacking a retiring employee.”
“People who are questioning past practices by any administration should be reminded that those they are questioning could be the same person they sit next to at church, the same person whose weddings and funerals they attend, the person they stand side-by-side at a little league, soccer, or football game,” she said in an email.
Her full statement is embedded below.
Marini said the city isn’t attacking retired employees, but questioned the prior administration for acting the way it did.
“No one whipped out an agreement and had her sign it. What’s strange is the timeline is weird,” he said. “It’s just very weird that it happened like that. Someone obviously had a conversation with her about the implications of her resignation and decided to kind of redo it to her advantage.”
The news regarding the former tax collector comes as Ansonia city lawyers review about 20 “special agreements” with city employees going back more than 20 years.
Cassetti has called the agreements suspicious, but the city hasn’t yet elaborated on the issue, which first surfaced in a memo Marini sent to other officials in April 2014.
The Valley Indy filed a Freedom of Information request last October asking for copies of the agreements in question. After several delays, during which lawyers reviewed the documents and redacted parts of them, the city released 92 pages of agreements in February.
In August, the city released a spreadsheet detailing retirement info for more than 70 employees, some of whom are the subjects of the “special agreements.”
The Valley Indy has been reviewing the documents, and last month started asking officials questions regarding Bostic’s departure from the city.