A Derby employee was suspended without pay and escorted out of City Hall June 25 because her supervisor suspected she was improperly voiding cash payments from taxpayers.
“The results of the investigation indicate that you had participated in the misapplication of payments and data manipulation or fraud,” according to a July 24 letter from Derby Corporation Counsel Joseph Coppola to Katherine Kulhawik, a clerk in the tax collector’s office.
Several messages left by the Valley Indy with Kulhawik were not returned. A message seeking comment was e-mailed to her attorney.
Coppola released two letters Tuesday after the Valley Indy submitted a request Aug. 2 under the state’s Freedom of Information Act asking for “records related in any way to allegations or investigations of personal misconduct of any kind by Derby city employee Katherine Kulhawik.”
The first letter is from Derby Tax Collector Denise Cesaroni. It is titled “Employee Disciplinary.” The document, written June 25, does not indicate who received it.
The documents released by Derby are posted below. The article continues after the document. If you see an error message, please note the documents can also be viewed here.
DMV Clearance Problem
In the letter, Cesaroni states that a Derby taxpayer called the tax collector’s office June 19 to request that the city fax a document to the Department of Motor Vehicles stating she was up-to-date with her Derby taxes.
People who owe taxes are not permitted to register their motor vehicles unless they pay their tax bill.
The woman had a tax clearance letter from the Derby tax collector’s office indicating she was current with her taxes, but officials at the DMV thought “the signature looked suspicious,” according to Cesaroni.
Cesaroni then reviewed the woman’s account.
City Hall records indicated the woman still owed back taxes.
However, the resident said not only had she paid her taxes in cash — she had a receipt from Derby to prove it. The taxpayer faxed her receipt, along with the tax clearance document, to Cesaroni.
Cesaroni checked computer records which showed the woman’s cash payment had been voided.
This raised a red flag with Cesaroni.
“Normally, a transaction is voided when it is entered with incorrect information or belongs on another account,” Cesaroni wrote in the letter.
Employees of the Derby Tax Collector’s Office then searched the trash to see if they could find the cash or a paper slip connected to the cash.
Neither was located. The dollar amount involved is not specified.
Cesaroni then checked other voided payments.
“I discovered that there were several accounts whose CASH payments were deleted and not re-entered. This never happened with CHECK payments,” Cesaroni wrote.
Kulhawik was suspended without pay as of June 25, the date on Cesaroni’s document.
The document is signed by Kulhawik, Cesaroni and union steward Sharon Domurad.
The document does not provide a dollar amount, nor does it directly connect Kulhawik to the “pattern of voids.”
In Coppola’s July 24 letter to Kulhawik, the Derby corporation counsel states his investigation involves “the mishandling of cash, the intention of deletion of data regarding payments of cash and the intentional suspension of tax billing statement.”
On Monday (Aug. 6), the Derby Board of Aldermen met in an executive session to consider a “separation agreement” offered by Kulhawik’s attorney. After meeting for more than an hour in private, the Aldermen took no action on the agreement.
Paul Wallace, a union official, was not immediately available for comment.
The Derby Police Department are aware of Coppola’s investigation but are not involved.
This story will be updated if more information becomes available.