Oxford First Selectman George Temple made a very unpopular decision over the winter when he released the names of people on a list of delinquent taxpayers, a list that he knew was not accurate.
The reason he did it, he says, was because he wanted people to know their good names were involved in a scheme perpetrated by former embezzling tax collector Karen Guillet, who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the tax office over several years. In an attempt to cover up her theft, Guillet did not credit accounts of people who actually paid.
Though it was unpopular, Temple was somewhat vindicated last month during Guilet's sentencing. Superior Court Judge Richard Arnold applauded Temple’s efforts, saying the move, though unpopular, was a necessary step to help the court understand just how much pain and suffering Guillet caused to the people of Oxford.
But Temple is not letting the case rest there: he wants to clear the good names of people who actually paid their taxes.
On Wednesday night, the first selectman, along with selectmen Jeff Haney and Dave McKane, voted unanimously to form a committee that will investigate exactly how to go about clearing names of those who paid and determine who did not pay. The list states that there is some $10.2 million in unpaid back taxes – including interest and penalties.
The process of verrifying who has paid has already proven tricky.
The town has attempted to file for a declaratory judgment from a Superior Court judge, but that case was tossed out of court because the town did not go through the state’s Office of Policy and Management before going to court. So the town applied for a ruling from OPM, but it has been more than six months and the town hasn’t heard back, Temple said Wednesday.
“Now, we need to look into it again,” Temple said. “We have to set up a procedure that has to be approved by somebody. …There were a lot of people who were put on that list unfairly.”
The committee looking into how to fix the problem consists of town Business Manager Jim Hliva, town Attorney Kevin Condon, Finance Board member Jack Kiley and new Tax Collector Sharon Scinto, who was officially appointed to that role, which she has held for a few months, on Wednesday night.
Temple has also charged the committee with looking into a paper trail that shows where and how Guillet spent the money she stole because he believes taxpayers have a right to know.
“We have a very good idea was taken, but not how much was spent,” Temple said. “You can only buy so many pairs of shoes. …I want to end this problem right now for the town of Oxford.”