A city “fact finding” report detailing the questionable practices of the Ansonia tax collector will be turned over to the police department, Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe announced Wednesday.
Also, an outside agency will be contacted to conduct an independent review of the tax office.
The move comes after a Valley Indy investigation published July 18 raised questions about the way Ansonia Tax Collector Bridget Bostic issued “tax clearance” documents to city employees and officials.
Bostic, a union member, was placed on administrative leave Wednesday, the mayor said.
“I’m going to contact the (Ansonia) police department for their review and I’m going to ask them to work with the state’s attorney’s office to see if criminal acts were committed,” Della Volpe said.
In addition, an “independent investigation will be carried out by someone outside city government with no ties to city government,” the mayor said.
Internal Report Released
Ansonia Wednesday released a 38-page “fact finding” report that looked into the practices of the Ansonia tax collector’s office.
The internal review was triggered by a Valley Independent Sentinel story that raised questions about car tax “clearances” issued by Bostic.
In the story, the Valley Indy discovered that three residents — all either city employees or city officials — received a Department of Motor Vehicle “tax clearance” document from the Ansonia tax collector’s office even though they owed back car taxes.
A fourth resident — Bostic’s mother, Marion — also received the clearance, even though she was behind on car taxes.
The documents allowed those people to register their cars with the Department of Motor Vehicles even though weren’t supposed to because they owed back car taxes.
The city’s fact finding report, a copy of which is posted at the bottom of this story, confirmed the Valley Indy’s reporting — and alleges that Bostic admitted giving her mother the tax clearance on three occasions.
In addition, the report names two additional city employees who allegedly owed car taxes but received a document from Bostic saying they were up-to-date.
Those employees are Leslie Jamison and John Tomasella, according to the report.
Bostic, a union member, has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a collective bargaining hearing, according to the mayor.
Disciplinary action of some kind is possible, Della Volpe said.
Bostic has repeatedly declined to talk to the Valley Indy.
The ‘Tax Clearance’
A tax clearance document (or stamp) is issued to people who were behind on car taxes and therefore can’t register their vehicles with the DMV due to those back taxes.
The tax clearance is supposed to be issued when the resident pays the back car taxes. The resident then gives the signed document to the DMV as proof of payment.
A tax clearance document is shown at the top of this story.
The Found Facts
The report states that Bostic gave the DMV tax clearance to her mother three times since 2001 and that she knew giving her the piece of paper would allow her mom to renew her car registration even though she owed taxes on the vehicle.
She also allegedly admitted giving the documents to four Ansonia employees who hadn’t paid their taxes.
“She admitted that she knew that this action would allow the taxpayers to register their motor vehicles even though they had not paid their taxes,” the report states.
The city’s internal review, which included interviews with Bostic and assistant tax collector Tammy Blackwell, recommended an “immediate halt” to the issuance of DMV tax clearances.
It is unclear as to how many tax clearances Bostic gave out, because there was no process in place to track them, according to the report.
The review revealed that both Bostic and Blackwell had paid for and processed tax payments for relatives — a practice that should be barred, according to the report, because it is vulnerable to abuse.
In addition, the internal review indicates Bostic allowed “payment plans” for some Ansonia taxpayers who fell behind on taxes.
That is a big no-no, according to Lisa Biagiarelli, the tax collector for the City of Norwalk. Biagiarelli has taught tax collectors certification courses for the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association, Inc.
“There is nothing in the state statutes to authorize so-called “payment plans” relative to tax collection,” Biagiarelli said.
“Payment plans” raise serious questions about fairness, she said in an e-mail.
“What happens — in theory — if all of a sudden everybody wanted to be on a ‘payment plan?’ Do you allow all of them to do it? If not, how do you pick and choose? Based on what?” she asked.
According to the report, Bostic told Della Volpe’s three-person “fact finding” team that “she knew she was not supposed to do payment plans” and that “she had done this as a courtesy to taxpayers and employees of the City of Ansonia.”
“Although the actions of the Tax Collector seemed to have been well intentioned, there is no basis in the law for her actions, and they may involve criminal activity,” the report concludes. “This report and further investigation should be turned over to the local police authorities.”
In a prepared statement Wednesday, Della Volpe said he will be contacting the Ansonia Police Department.
He called for the police to investigate not just the tax collector’s office, but also the individuals who received the DMV tax clearance documents.
“They (Ansonia police) shall work with the State’s Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal acts have been committed by those individuals, including but not limited to city employees, who knowingly used invalid local tax waivers for the registration of motor vehicles with the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles,” the mayor’s statement reads.
In addition to the recommendations from his fact finding team, Della Volpe proposed the following reforms to the tax office (the complete list can be seen in his statement, which is posted below):
- A list of delinquent taxpayers — and a list of Ansonia city employees who owe taxes — should be placed on public display in Ansonia City Hall and on the city’s website
- The establishment of a written protocol regarding DMV tax release forms
The recommendations will be made to the Ansonia Board of Aldermen.
John Marini, an Alderman who represents the city’s Seventh Ward, said he supported the mayor’s call for outside investigations.
“I agree with the mayor’s decision to go ahead with an external investigation,” Marini said. “I do think there is enough on the basis of this report to know that an impropriety has taken place.”
Gene Sharkey, the president of the Ansonia Board of Aldermen, said the report will be a topic of discussion at the Aug. 14 Aldermen meeting.
“Based upon what we’re seeing, a review of our practices is needed and maybe, in fact, some new policies need to be put in place,” Sharkey said.
“It is unethical for people to be treated differently, whether they are citizens, city employees or volunteers on commissions. Everybody needs to be treated equally and we’re all responsible for paying our taxes,” Sharkey said.
Members of Della Volpe’s fact-finding team included Francis Teodosio, the city’s labor counsel; Kevin Blake, the city’s corporation counsel; and Robert Jaskilka, an auditor for the Ansonia Board of Apportionment and Taxation.
The internal report conducted by Della Volpe’s “fact-finding team” follows:
The following is a statement from the mayor: