Ex-Derby Clerk Makes First Restitution Payment To City

The former Derby tax office employee who allegedly mishandled cash payments and manipulated payment data on city computers made her first restitution payment to the city.

Mayor Anthony Staffieri said Thursday that a $5,000 check from Katherine Kulhawik arrived in Derby City Hall Wednesday.

As part of a separation agreement approved by the Derby Board of Aldermen in August, elected officials promised not to file a complaint with police against Kulhawik if she agreed to pay $9,000 in “damages” to the city.

The first $5,000 payment guarantees Derby won’t take criminal or civil action against Kulhawik.

According to the agreement, Kulhawik will pay Derby $400 per month until Aug. 1, 2013.

Kulhawik was escorted out of Derby City Hall June 25, after her supervisor, Derby Tax Collector Denise Cesaroni, discovered a “pattern of voids” regarding cash payments from taxpayers.

The internal investigation started June 19, after Cesaroni discovered a Derby resident had paid her car tax in cash and was given a receipt — but the transaction was then voided and the cash could not be found.

Clerks searched the office trash looking for the money, to no avail.

Derby Aldermen consulted with Derby police but stopped short of accusing Kulhawik of theft — and the carefully worded separation agreement states the precise “damage” amount is “difficult to ascertain” but that the $9,000 number is “acceptable.”

Since the Kulhawik controversy, Derby is planning to install video surveillance cameras in the tax office.

In addition, city employees now have precise rules and regulations about computer access and the importance of using specifically-assigned user names and passwords.

Aldermen Art Gerckens and Barbara DeGennaro were the only two Aldermen who voted against Kulhawik’s separation agreement back in August.

DeGennaro said Thursday the matter should have been reported to and investigated by law enforcement.

The lower Naugatuck Valley has been awash in corruption or allegations of corruption as of late.

Derby Aldermen opted to handle their controversy much, much differently than their Valley neighbors.

  • In Oxford, the town called the state police. Now former tax collector Karen Guillet pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny for stealing $243,902 from taxpayers. She faces up to five years in prison at her sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 29 in Superior Court in Milford. A civil action is underway as well.
  • In Shelton, city officials called state police after allegedly discovering assistant finance director Sharon Scanlon misappropriated $348,416. A civil action is underway there, too.
  • In Ansonia, where the tax collector resigned after the Valley Indy reported she had improperly given out car tax waivers, the city contacted the chief state’s attorney’s office even though there was no money missing.

Ansonia Aldermen have held a slew of public meetings in an attempt to scrutinize their own tax department and enact reforms to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Comment

posted by: Fred Stiening on October 3, 2012  10:45am

What happens to the people who paid their taxes in cash?  Does the city think they still owe their taxes? Their receipt would not say voided. 

It shouldn’t be hard to look at the city copy of the cash log and see if “void” is written on the city copy in ink or the carbon or pressure sensitive transfer ink.  Unless a void is immediately followed by a corrected receipt to the same person, it’s a pretty safe bet it was stolen.  Let’s solve the process issues rather than just putting up more cameras.  How about requiring a cash void to require a second person to approve it?  Are the cash receipts totaled each day and deposited in the bank?  Does a supervisor review the log?