Police Chief Kevin Hale told Ansonia Aldermen Tuesday night that within 48 hours he’ll know “the next step that we’re going to take” in the investigation into irregularities in the city’s tax office.
Mayor James Della Volpe last week asked police and state prosecutors to look into whether problems in the tax office warranted a criminal investigation.
“If there’s a criminal investigation, that should be the number one road,” Hale said Tuesday night. “How that goes, if it goes, we don’t know yet. There’s other discussions I have to have in the next day before we figure that out.”
Click the play button on the video to see Hale’s full remarks.
The chief’s comments came during the Aldermen’s regular meeting Tuesday, which was dominated by discussion of the city’s tax office.
Aldermen discussed a number of ways to address the problem Tuesday, but ultimately voted 9-4 to delay any action until a special meeting they set for Aug. 28.
Last week the city 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 tax collector Bridget 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.
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.
Bostic, a union member, has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a collective bargaining hearing, according to the mayor.
Tuesday night, Aldermen talked about several steps to take in reaction to the problems in the tax office.
Della Volpe sent Aldermen a resolution with a number of proposals he came up with last week after the fact finding report came out.
It also called for Aldermen to be presented with a list of all tax releases issued by the city’s tax office in the past five years by Sept. 1.
Aldermen seemed content to use Della Volpe’s proposals as a framework, but suggested additional measures.
For instance, Alderman John Marini proposed an immediate forensic audit, and floated the idea of calling the city employees named in the report before the board to ask them about the tax clearances.
And Ed Adamowski said he thinks anyone appointed to a city board or commission should be removed if he or she is more than one year behind on tax payments of any kind.
The proposal prompted scattered applause from among the 30 or so people in the audience at Ansonia City Hall.
“We’re here to set an example for our people and we’re here to take care of them,” Adamowski said. “And if we’re the ones that are just saying ‘We’re not going to pay our taxes because I sit on the board,’ quite frankly nobody deserves to be here.”
Click the play button below to see Adamowski’s full comments. Article continues after the video.
Ultimately, Aldermen voted to see what happens with any possible criminal investigation and reconvene in two weeks. During his remarks, Hale said if a criminal probe goes forward, that would have to take precedence over any investigation the Aldermen order.
Sharkey had earlier expressed similar sentiments.
“The investigation by the state’s attorney’s office takes precedence,” he said. “That has to be conducted first and gotten to a certain point.”
“It will be two (investigations),” Sharkey said. “Portions of (the Aldermen’s investigation) will be simultaneously proceeding but one needs to start and get to a certain point and then the other one start.”
Sharkey’s comments are below. Article continues after the video.
Alderman Scott Nihill proposed the delay to a special meeting Aug. 28, saying “we shouldn’t rush” in responding to the problems in the tax office.
Alderman Philip Tripp agreed, saying the time until the next meeting could be used by the city’s lawyers to give the ideas proposed Tuesday a “legal scrub.”
Click the play button to see Tripp’s comments. Article continues after the video.
Nihill’s motion passed 9-4, with Democrats Sharkey, Kevin Mott, Jerome Fainer, and Marini, a Republican, voting against it.
During a recess in the meeting, Sharkey said he was OK with the concept of meeting in two weeks to further discuss the issue, but didn’t see why Aldermen couldn’t pass the reforms proposed by Della Volpe last week.
“I wanted some of these policies in place, even though it’s going to be two more weeks,” he said. “I wanted to start somewhere.”
Adamowski said outside City Hall that Aldermen know people are unhappy about the situation and will respond accordingly.
“We just want to make sure we’ve got all of our ducks in a row,” he said. “We don’t want to do anything that we’re not supposed to legally. Nobody’s happy with what happened.”
Della Volpe said Wednesday he’ll begin planning the implementation of the changes he proposed since it seemed Aldermen were receptive.
“It won’t be as quick as I would like it but that’s because the Aldermen put it off for two weeks,” he said. “We need to put some of these reforms into place.”
The mayor also said he’s reached out to the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association with a view to hiring a temporary replacement for Bostic. No candidates have yet been identified. “We’re starting to get names,” Della Volpe said Wednesday.