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Oxford Cleaning Up Delinquent Tax List

Town can now prove at least 383 names don't belong on list.

Thanks to a joint effort between residents and town officials, at least 383 names and more than $2.3 million will likely be removed from an unreliable list of delinquent taxpayers compiled by a disgraced former tax collector.

By collecting mortgage refinance documents, escrow payment receipts, 1099 documents and other forms of payment proof from residents over the past five months, the tax collector’s office has begun the arduous process of cleaning up town tax records and attempting to clear names of honest people who paid their fair share but never got credit for it on town records.

 for a declaratory judgement that would give them authority to officially remove those 383 names from the delinquency list. The document was pieced together over several years by former tax collector , who has been arrested for allegedly stealing from the office over several years. And, town leaders want the court to tell them how to legally remove the names of several other people whom they can prove don’t deserve to be on the delinquent list.

That is what First Selectman George Temple and Town Attorney Kevin Condon said Tuesday at during a meeting with local reporters regarding the now-infamous tax document that lists more than 2,300 people as owing more than $10.3 million to the town. That list includes interest and penalties. 

“This is a totally unreliable list and there were a lot of people put on this list unjustly,” said Temple, who released the list in January in an attempt to figure out who doesn't belong on it and try to build a better legal case against Guillet. “For those people, I really am sorry that their names had to be dragged through this situation. However, I don’t think I had any choice."

One of the residents Temple apologized to on behalf of the town was Lorraine Tirella, 47, who has lived in Oxford since 1993. She says she's paid her taxes on time and in full every year and takes umbrage to the fact that her name is shown as delinquent in town records. The list shows that she didn’t pay half of her real estate taxes in 1997, but she knows she did.

Tirella's bank, however, has told her that in order to get a copy of her payment documentation for that year, she would have to fork over a couple hundred dollars, she said. She said many of her friends are in the same situation, and she attended Tuesday’s press conference to express her frustration over the issue and to find out what the town was doing for people like her.

Many of the people on this list are honest taxpayers, Tirella said. “They are not deadbeats by any means."

Following Tuesday's meeting, in which officials told her they are doing all they can to clear names like hers from delinquent records, Tirella said she feels better because "I just don't want all of the burden (of proof of payment) to be on the taxpayer."

Temple, Condon and current Tax Collector Cayenne Spremullo told Tirella that part of what they are asking the court is how to deal with situations like the one she faced.

Spremullo added that even her own name is on the list of being delinquent. Like all others on the list, she would never have known if the document were not made public, she said.

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The current tax collector is asking residents for a little bit of patience and understanding in dealing with this situation and said most people have been willing to work with the town to clear their names.

“This is a joint effort,” she said. “If we could actually rely on the records we have, we would never ask people to provide us proof of payment. We know what a burden it is."

If people have some kind of payment proof, they are encouraged to speak with the tax collector’s office about it.

Meanwhile, town officials will wait to receive a judge’s ruling, which could come months from now. Temple said the town hopes the court will give selectmen authority to sit down with the list and cross off names of people who paid. 

"I only know how to do one thing and that's to be professional," he said. "I don't think there is any other way to approach this, and I feel that in the past a lot of these things were overlooked. We cannot overlook this. We have to have the courage to go forward and that's what we're doing here.

"I don't want to dwell on the past," he said. "From this day forward, we're going to endeavor to run our tax office in a professional and reliable manner."

Janis Hardy May 23, 2012 at 03:05 PM
I think it would be more appropriate if the Court authorized the Selectmen to bring the list forward to a Town Meeting and let the legislative body of the Town take the official step of reducing it's outstanding tax revenues. This step would also indemnify the three people on the Board of Selectmen from this responsibility since it would be the Town Meeting and not just three individuals plus perhaps the tax collector and the town attorney who would be granting the final authorization for removal of names and taxes due from the delinquent list. After all, the Town Meeting approves the expenditures and the potential tax rate via the budget process; it should be the final authority on commuting the tax liabilities of these unjustly listed taxpayers. As an aside Paul, I am going to start a war on the phrase 'fair share'! Please do not get sucked into the current hype of using this phrase since it is both insulting and derogatory to the people of this community. Trust me, we all pay, big time, and who is to decide what somebody's "fair share" is?
Paul Singley May 23, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Hi Janis. What I mean by fair share is what the tax collector's office says you owe. But you're right, I can be careful with the terminology. Thank you!
CMG May 24, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I am on that list once, way back in 1999 for taxes that have ALWAYS been included in my mortgage payment. I don't know how I am going to prove I paid. I don't even know what bank I had at the time. I am divorced now and even the tax returns are long gone. The only thing I have to go on is the records of tax payments from all other years of owning a house in Oxford. They will show that the taxes have always been paid by my bank. I hope they can figure this out because I certain don't have the money to re-pay taxes I have already paid. Thank you Karen. You really have stuck it all to us while you have been living the high life for 15 years!!!!
Janis Hardy May 27, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Cindy, obtaining 'proof of payment' in your situation might be relatively easy to get. When you have some time, go into the Oxford Town Clerk's office and ask them to show you how to search the land records for the property in question. If you had a mortgage on your property in 1999, that mortgage will be recorded, and you will be able to get the name of the bank. If that mortgage has been paid, refinanced or transferred through a refinance or a sale, then there would be a "Release of Mortgage" filed on the land records. Get a copy of those documents covering that time period. In order to refinance or sell, the bank would absolutely require that the taxes had been paid, so copies of these documents would be helpful to the tax collector's office.
citizen kane June 05, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Hi Janis, your idea of having a town meeting is not a good one. I find that in the past not more then 20-50 citizens would show up. These were usually citizens bias to one political party or the another. Letting 20-50 citizens decide the fate for the whole town is not good. Besides, what do we know as a common citizen and not a lawyer? Even if this was somehow brought to a referendum would it still be fair to all the citizens of Oxford. The real problem here is not that a "unreliable list of delinquent taxpayers" exists it's that a tax collector has stolen the money and one family caused this issue for all of us. Fixing this is going to be a painful experience for all of us.

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