Ansonia Tax Collector Bridget Bostic resigned via e-mail Tuesday, Mayor James Della Volpe announced at the start of last night’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
The resignation was effective immediately and was received Tuesday afternoon.
“I accepted it,” Della Volpe said.
The resignation came as a surprise to Della Volpe and other city officials. It was not negotiated nor accepted as part of a separation agreement.
“She sent the e-mail to our personnel director stating she was resigning effective immediately,” the mayor told the Valley Indy.
Bostic’s resignation comes six weeks after the Valley Independent Sentinel published a story revealing she had improperly given car tax “release” documents to people who had not paid their car taxes.
The documents 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 four people owed $16,666 in back car taxes as of June 28.
Bostic’s mother owed about $4,000 on two vehicles dating back to 1997. Yet she was able to register a Toyota Corolla in April with the Department of Motor Vehicles using a document from the tax collector as proof she had paid her back taxes.
An employee with the Ansonia Department of Public Works owed almost $7,000 on six cars dating back to 2007. Yet he was able to register three cars with the DMV in June 2011, using a stamped notice from Bostic as proof he had paid overdue car taxes.
A separate, internal “fact finding” team looked into the issue and found two more city employees who also received the release even though they owed back car taxes.
The revelations raised questions of favoritism in Ansonia City Hall. The chief state’s attorney’s office is now investigating whether criminal charges are warranted.
The Ansonia Board of Aldermen Tuesday requested Della Volpe suspend with pay the city employees Tuesday who received the car tax release documents from Bostic pending the outcome of an investigation.
It is unknown whether those city employees knew Bostic wasn’t supposed to give them the car tax documents. One non-city employee who received the document told the Valley Indy last month she did so as part of a “payment plan” arrangement with the city to help her get up to date with her taxes.
Della Volpe said he will be contacting the city unions to put the workers on administrative leave and start a process that could lead to disciplinary action.
“I received direction from the Board of Aldermen tonight that I should put those workers on leave and have a fact finding team hear their side of the story and determine whether any type of disciplinary action is needed after a hearing,” he said.
The Aldermen held a lively round-table discussion Tuesday night looking at ways to reform procedures within the tax office.
Elected officials also want to know whether the issues in the tax department run deeper than reported by the Valley Indy and the city’s own fact finding team.
The Aldermen’s finance committee will meet Sept. 6 with the city’s auditor to determine if a more detailed forensic audit of some kind is needed to review tax records in the city. In addition, the Aldermen want advice from the Connecticut Tax Collector’s Association, Inc. as to what additional policies and procedures should be in place to keep tabs on the tax office.
The initial Valley Indy story also showed that 30 city employees or city officials — including people serving on boards or commissions — owed Ansonia about $50,000 on all types of local taxes as of June 28.
The city is and had been taking the normal steps to collect those back taxes.
The question of what to do with those names was the subject of debate among Aldermen Tuesday.
Should anyone who owes back taxes and volunteers with the city be immediately removed from their volunteer position? Would that include volunteer firemen and youth sports coaches?
Ultimately the board decided to limit their focus to members of boards and commissions who are appointed by the Aldermen and owe taxes going back at least a year. The Aldermen want to see a list of those names at their October meeting. Any decision to remove volunteers from boards and commissions will be done on a case-by-case basis.
And what about city employees who are paid by the public through taxes yet don’t pay their own taxes?
Fran Teodosio, the Ansonia labor counsel, said the Aldermen can’t fire or discipline workers simply because they owe back taxes. Doing so would violate union labor contracts with the city.
Aldermen John Marini suggested the next time union contracts are up for renewal, the city should insert language into the contract connecting the payment of taxes to employment with the city.