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List Of Delinquent Taxpayers Angers Oxford Residents

Police called to keep the peace at tax office.

A list of people who may or may not be delinquent on their taxes that the town publicized on Tuesday has raised the ire of dozens of residents who say their reputations are being tarnished unnecessarily.

Town officials announced during a news conference on Tuesday that they have identified more than $10.2 million in back taxes owed by almost 2,000 taxpayers. The list of delinquencies, which includes what would be owed in interest and penalties, includes people who may have paid but whose names still show up on the list because of bad past practices that town officials say was orchestrated by a former tax collector who has been arrested and accused of stealing at least $670,000 from the town.

Officials believe Karen Guillet, the former tax collector, did not credit people’s accounts even though they paid so she could hide her elaborate embezzlement scheme. Therefore, several people’s accounts show they have unpaid taxes even though they indeed paid their fair share.    

Some of those residents, former residents and business owners brought their concerns straight to the source on Wednesday morning. They lined up outside of the tax office at Town Hall and demanded answers about how their names got on the list and how the situation can be rectified.

Some were so angry and caused such a fuss that town officials called police (nobody was arrested). A state trooper was stationed outside of the tax collector’s office from 9:30 a.m. on and another is expected to be at tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting at 7:30 in case anyone gets overzealous.

Resident Bob Taylor, a former police officer himself, did not yell at town officials, but nevertheless said he was upset about the way the town went about notifying residents there was a potential tax issue.

After seeing his name on the list published on Oxford Patch and on websites of other news organizations on Tuesday, Taylor said he went to the tax office Wednesday morning looking to resolve the issue because he does not owe taxes.

“They didn’t have answers,” he said. “They left the tax collector staff in a boat without oars. They didn’t have a clear set of directions or protocols about what people should do if they feel their name was incorrectly placed on the list.

“If they put out information like that one day, the expectation should be that people are going to head to the office the next day to find out what’s going on,” he said. “And they seemed ill-prepared to explain the process.”

He believes the list should have been combed over a little more thoroughly before it was publicized. For example, he said, town officials could have made phone calls to people on the list first and explained the situation to them. His situation would have been rectified immediately, he said, as current Tax Collector Cayenne Spremullo would have quickly notice that he did indeed pay all of his taxes and his name was on the list inadvertently.

When he went to the office on Wedneday, that is exactly what tax officials told him.

Others will have to attempt to prove they have paid their taxes with a receipt from the tax office, a note from their mortgage company or their tax preparer, or via some other means.

That is what town employee Rosemary Harner, who works in the town clerk’s office, is going to attempt to do. She has paid all of her taxes and said she has refinanced her home recently, which she would not have been able to do if she had a tax lien against her property. Therefore, there is no way the list can be accurate because she does not owe taxes, she said.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that a lot of people are going through,” she said.

She blames Karen Guillet for not crediting her account properly and, like many, doesn’t want people thinking she is a delinquent taxpayer. She has confidence the town will fix the problems in the tax office.

First Selectman George Temple made it very clear this week that Spremullo, the current tax collector, is not the person who should be blamed for the current state of affairs in the tax office. In fact, he said, she should be commended for trying to solve problems.

Spremullo said Wednesday she is simply trying to figure out who owes and how much they owe. She wants to correct the list and remove names of those who don’t belong on it.

She said people who see their names on the list and have questions about it should go to her office at Town Hall or call her at 203.888.2543, ext. 3022. What she will need is some proof of payment. She also realizes people may not have that proof because the list of delinquencies goes back some 15 years. However, she said, she will meet with Temple, the Board of Finance and the town attorney to figure out how to deal with a taxpayer who says he or she has paid but cannot prove it with paperwork. In the past, people have been asked to sign sworn affidavits that state they have paid, but it’s unclear what will happen in this case.

While town officials work out details of how to help people who have been wrongly accused of owing money, Spremullo hopes taxpayers will be patient and understanding, though she understands why they may be upset.

“This was not done in any way to be accusatory,” she said. “But we just need to get the information out there so we can clean it up.”

Editor’s Note: We have received several messages from angry residents yesterday and today. Some of them are angry with town officials for releasing their names even though they may not really owe any money; some have said they will call their attorneys and possibly file defamation complaints against the town. Some have also been mad at us.

Like other news outlets, we printed this public information, which was being circulated to members of the local media by town officials. We also have made it clear that the list of delinquent taxpayers includes people who may not owe money. We printed the list because A. it’s a public document that is available to anyone who wants it at Town Hall, and B. because people have a right to know their names are on the list so they can rectify the situation. We did not intend to embarrass anyone.

If you believe you do not owe taxes but your name is still on the list, you have options. The first is to call the tax collector at 203.888.2543, ext. 3022 or stop by the office at Town Hall. And we will compile a list of people who claim they do not owe any taxes. If you are one of these people, please feel free to post your comments here, send us and your neighbors a message on our Facebook page or message us via Twitter @OxfordCTPatch. And you can email us at paul.singley@patch.com.

Thank you.  

Rachael R February 19, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Ct4Sanity: A public document is a public document, and can, and is, published in certain towns and cities. It seems that when the theft was discovered, under the past administration a complete investigation should have been undertaken, and letters sent out to all "delinquents" on the list. If any action was boneheaded it was the inaction taken by the previous administration.What they did not do could be costly in the upcoming trial.
Ed Spruck February 19, 2012 at 01:08 AM
what is the time limit? At least they could search the 2010 records.
Rachael R February 19, 2012 at 01:10 AM
CT4Sanity: No one was talking about "firing", or due process, but since you brought it up she could have received her due process, after admitting to a theft, without having access to the tax office...it's" called Paid Administrative Leave"pending the outcome of the investigation.She ended up with the paid leave anyway, and the added bonus of time to access the records while she knew she was suspected,,,well beyond due process.
John M. Joy February 19, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Hey, Rachael, I had convinced myself to leave this thread for more productive pursuits, but your last post has convinced me to add one last post (I hope). Here's a hypothetical for you: Suppose the Town's server that hosts the tax database crashed. Supposed it happened to do this just after the tax office's "busy season" when a whole lotta receipts came in. (I can tell you from experience that Murphy's Law does apply, and this does, indeed, occur.) Suppose further the recovery of the database resulted, as such recoveries often do, in the truncation of a bunch of transactions, such as occured to my, and your, posts to this very forum the evening of Thursday, February 16. (You remember, you complained rather bitterly to Paul. Don't remember? Scroll up.) Now, some time later, suppose the Town, despite knowing the database was munged (and this is an important fact here), decided to publish a snapshot (which, of course, omits all those truncated payment records during the busy period), as a delinqueny list, for the stated purpose of collecting past-due taxes. Does that snapshot actually offer a true representation of the public record? Would the Patch, had, by some fluke of luck, retained MY messages but deleted yours?
Mary Beth Nelsen February 19, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Rachel R: I'm gonna go out on a limb here and speculate that when other towns publish a list called "Delinquent" they do some pretty good due diligence first to ensure that the list is accurate, as opposed to Temple's approach, which was to publish a list that he knew to be inaccurate, without having made any reasonable attempts (for which there are plenty of examples from these other towns) to contact the people first. As for what the previous administration did, let's start with the fact that they were the first one to do ANYTHING. As for whether they did not do "something that could be costly"- let me guess that you are speculating and have no actual facts nor evidence to back that up? Of course if you do, then you must be officially involved and are commenting on an on-going investigation.
Jen February 19, 2012 at 01:45 AM
First, it takes a while to go through all the records to reconcile the payables and receivables of this magnitude. Second, Mrs, Guilette is currently trying to negotiate a plea bargain. Perhaps, by releasing all of this publically, Mr. Temple is trying to keep us angry enough keep the negotiations in Oxford's favor. And before anyone comments: yes, we were on the list; yes, we have paid our taxes; and yes, it is a pain in the ass to go back and prove it. Who amI angry with? Karen, whom we considered a friend.
John M. Joy February 19, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Then your are accusing Mr. Temple of using Oxford taxpayers as pawns in negotiation. I doubt he is doing so (and sincerely hope not). You may have a sense of humor about being called a deadbeat. Someone trying to refinance, sell property, or obtain a security clearance for a job at a defense contractor (e.g. Sikorsky) would likely not share your opinion.
Rachael R February 19, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Ct4Sanity: What? You seem to be as confused about "due diligence", as you are about "due process"...hope you aren't an attorney. The last bit of your comment is poorly worded, but if I am interpreting it correctly I am not officially involved in the investigation, but do believe errors( inadvertent, or intended) made by the past administration could prove costly to the town in the trial.
Mary Beth Nelsen February 19, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Rachael R: So, as I thought, your '"observations" are based completely on your opinion, which is clearly that is was OK to knowingly publish the names of many innocent people and publicly label them delinquents. I absolutely don't agree, but you have a right to your opinion. As for terms like "due diligence" and "due process", you could look them up, but it's clear now that you find facts inconvenient and just want to advance your obviously biased and partisan opinions.
Rachael R February 19, 2012 at 03:03 AM
CT4Sanity: I believe it is you that find facts and definitions inconvenient to your overtly partisan opinions. Good night.
Resident _X February 19, 2012 at 07:11 AM
Just as I had thought...Trash!
jeb February 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
You know it seems to me that Mr. Temple could have eliminated many of the names by doing what he is asking tax payers to do. Check the records for Building permits, house sales, car registrations after the alleged delinquency. Why didn’t he? It would take less time doing that than answering every ones questions. Just ask the three needed (Tax Office, Assessor, & Building Permits) to work a couple of Fridays uninterrupted to clean up the list. Faster documented information for the prosecution and less public outcry. I agree with Rachael, why was Guillet allowed access to the computer after she admitted to the First Selectman that she “took” $3,000? Who knows what mischief this allowed her to accomplish during that time.
John M. Joy February 19, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Re: the first thing: agreed (though I doubt it would have even required work on Fridays). Re: the second: someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Karen escorted from the building immediately after her meeting with Mary Anne? Personally, I'm more concerned about the elapsed time between the matter being brought to the administration's attention by personnel and that meeting.
MOM February 19, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Just wondering how many more comments are going to be allowed. We are currently at 105 and seems to me it might be time to close the comments down and move on. The back and forth isn't accomplishing anything. How 'bout some positive news??? Anyone???
John M. Joy February 19, 2012 at 05:40 PM
OK, but I'll post it up top.
John M. Joy February 19, 2012 at 09:47 PM
The 2010 accounts listed are, I believe, from the current tax billing cycle. I'll have to check with Cayenne to be sure, but I suspect the 2010 prefix refers to the Grand List year; 2010's Grand List being what was used to calculate the budget for fiscal year July 1, 2011 thru June 30, 2012. Real estate taxes are typically paid in two installments: July and January. You'll notice a lot of these accounts have half paid and half due; these are the accounts that as of the list's generation were approximately two weeks late in making payment. Again I'll double-check this with the tax office and correct it it's not so.
Jen February 19, 2012 at 10:14 PM
John the 2010 are from 2010, not this cycle. We are on that list and have the canceled checks to prove we have paid.
John M. Joy February 19, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Now that's strange. I'm assuming the interest column is current, and when taking those "halfsies" in 2010 and multiplying by 0.03 (18%/12 * two months) the number matches, which should bear this out. I'll have to follow up with Cayenne and Sharon and find out what it is we're looking at.
Bernard February 20, 2012 at 12:58 AM
As many as possible. Patch hasn't been this hot since the election. Paul owes George Temple big time. Between the Blight ordinance that he was for until he was against it and now ListGate, we got Oxford's main event ring resounding with the sound of lefts and rights. Rachel R, CT4sanity, JMJ - this sets the world right in my book.
Citizen X February 20, 2012 at 05:22 AM
Let the comments keep coming, why limit the discourse because of an arbitrary number? Obviously people still have points to be made, & I don't consider a lot of this meaningless 'back & forth'. & yes, I think the ex tax collector was escorted from the building once she admitted to taking the $3,000. I think the 6 weeks are in reference to when Town Hall thought there might a problem to when there was an admission of taking that $3,000. I don't believe the ex-tax collector was confronted & then was given 6 weeks to attempt to cover her tracks, but I could be wrong. I haven't gone back to read the original stories.
kathy johnson February 20, 2012 at 05:50 PM
My sense is that George had to know this issue was going to be a hot topic. I agree with Rachael that this list may have been published to help prove Karen guilty. I do not know what impact it will ultimately have on Karen's defense but George may know something the rest of us do not otherwise he has just committed political suicide. As I said before. Time will tell.
Citizen X February 21, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Political suicide? Let's not get dramatic.
Jen February 21, 2012 at 03:01 PM
John, appears you are right. The 2010 accounts are this years July 2011 and Jan 2012 tax bills. They just never changed the year at the top or the billing date. Causing a lot of confusion down at the tax office because the dates are wrong. The January bills never went out which is why there are so many in the second column.
Abe February 22, 2012 at 04:01 AM
I'm not sure that the former administration could have prevented her from working since it is an elected position. ( I have no printable comment related to having the Tax Collector elected as opposed to being an employee. I have heard that the town cannot go after her pension money since it is the result of holding political office. If that is true, Dave Haversat should recant his position.) Regarding publishing the list: It is a tough call but it may have been the better choice. People get angry when they see their name on the list and rush to prove that they paid, which speeds up identifying the inaccuracies.
Craig Zac February 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Werent the 6 weeks the time it took for the police to make their case and gather evidence on the full amount of the theft so they could get her on that instead of just the 3 G's? I think I remember hearing something like that....
Craig Zac February 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM
What about the Dogs killing dog comment list, wasnt that bigger?
Craig Zac February 22, 2012 at 12:39 PM
I feel for those who are on thhis list due to accounting errors or this woman who stole $$$ and never listed these folks as paying. BUT.... If you knowingly did not pay your taxes, good job... you made "The List"...
kathy johnson February 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Citizen X you are correct political suicide is too strong. I did not really mean to say that. What my point is is that knowing George I believe he is savvy enough to not ruin himself politically. Both political party's should be very careful not to get too political with this issue as there may be more to this than meets the eye. George may end up the hero of the day. Time will tell.
Cheryl Giampapa February 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Although quite a shocking step (posting the entire list publically.....had private notices to this list ever been considered? It seems to me that if I actually owed taxes our town would have sent a notice post haste. Over the summer months I must have misplaced my car tax notice and I was reminded by a mailed letter from town hall very quickly of my error. Mind you, the first time in over 20 years that we have lived here had we lost a tax bill!
JOSEPH TYRIAN February 28, 2012 at 03:58 PM
People need to really think this out. The individual appears to have taken over $500,000 plus in tax revenues by covering it up in the office. Everyone is fully aware of the situation- so boo-hoo if your names on the list - Most people believe the names on the list are part of the cover up, I feel the comment that upset specidic individuals is that if you haven't paid your taxes and now your name appears on the list. Well if you haven't paid your taxes - Shame on you (Unless your out of work and need assistance), if your on the list and paid your taxes - make it know to town hall that your one of the individuals the former tax collector screwed.

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