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Oxford's Tax Collector Resigns After Less Than Two Months

Paula Jensen was the fourth tax collector in Oxford in the past two years.

 

Paula Jensen has resigned as Oxford's tax collector after less than two months at the helm.

The decision leaves a void in the important government position, which has seen four tax collectors in the past two years - three in the past nine months. 

First Selectman George Temple announced Thursday in a news release that Jensen resigned because she has taken a job in the private sector for more money than the $50,000 a year she earns as Oxford's tax collector.

“It’s always a danger when you hire good people like that they will be offered a position that pays much higher and unfortunately that is the situation," Temple said.

Oxford has had problems with its tax office for several years. It was first discovered in December 2009 when former longtime tax collector Karen Guillet was found to have embezzled hundreds of thousands from the tax office over several years. She was caught in by current assistant tax collector Sharon Scinto and was put on leave, before resigning in June 2010. She has pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny and faces up to five years in prison when sentenced in October.

After Guillet left the office, Jacqueline Orner was brought on as an interim tax collector. Orner lost in the November election to Cayenne Spremullo. She resigned in June, saying that part of the reason for her resignation was there were so many problems in the office left behind by Guillet. Jensen, who came from the private sector, was hired on July 3. 

To hold over the tax office for the time being, Temple said he has hired a part-time person for the tax office until a replacement is found for Jensen. He did not say who that person will be. He said that person was hired "to catch up with the backlog resulting from our last collection period." Temple said he will conduct a diligent search for a new tax collector to stabilize the tax office.

In the news release, Jensen said, "I am pleased to have been a part of rectifying an extremely difficult situation during my time and have seen a great improvement. My personal and professional needs have changed, and I must address those needs. I truly have enjoyed serving the people of Oxford, and wish my colleagues continued success in their endeavors.’’

Ed Rowland August 23, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Hi Dad, When I went to vote on the field last week I had a chance to speak with George.He knew I was not in favor of it but we shaked hands and I spoke with Jeff about the field.No one was rude.I think George is a very likeable guy.As far as the tax collector goes she may have been looking into other avenues before the Oxford job came along.The GOP in this town has been fractured for a while.Just my thoughts.Not pointing fingers at anyone.Enjoy the evening.
E Twig August 23, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Maybe this why my tax check that was given to them on 7/24 finally clear the bank on 8/22.
Janis Hardy August 23, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Yes, I'm going to beat a dead horse.... I hope all the citizens of Oxford will finally realize the folly of failing to approve the charter change that would have allowed us to HIRE a fully certified, qualified individual to serve as tax collector in situations like this. Having to continually find a republican resident of Oxford WILLING to take on this daunting task in the aftermath of the Guilette fiasco is going to be an ongoing problem. What will happen if this (or any other) administration cannot find a suitable resident to appoint in the event of a vacancy in the office? Believe me, our Chrter Commission researched and fully discussed all of these eventualities ad nauseum, and concluded that it was in the best interest of the TOWN to make the tax collector a hired position. Our opponents were only interested in what was in the best interest of their POLITICAL PARTY, and in my opinion, it is the Town and its residents that will suffer for this.
David Yish August 24, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Sorry Janis but I can't let that stand unanswered. My opposition to the Charter change was based on what I felt was best for the Town of Oxford also. The fact that we simply disagreed is what it is. I felt at the time (and I still do) that making the Tax collector a hired position immediately after the situation in the tax office was bad for the town at the time. It put the BOS in a spot to make that decision immediately after discrepancies were found that, maybe, the BOS should have noticed. As we now know, these issues were occurring through many administrations over many years before I was sworn in. My view on this had absolutely nothing to do with party politics and everything to do with healing the town by providing a vote to the electorate and restoring faith in our tax office. If the town feels now, with the legal aspect of this all behind us it is time to revisit the Charter, then there is a mechanism to do that. I respect that and hope that some day you find it possible to respect the will of the voter when the matter was voted on last.
Oxford Resident August 24, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Wasn't it George and his cronies, Dave Stocker, the Carvers, etc...that led the effort to kill that Charter change? It would be complete politics if they NOW thinks its a good idea, but with this group, anything can happen because they can't be trusted to do anything, unless it benefits a minority of people and their sons.
MOM August 24, 2012 at 02:14 AM
I agree with Kenn Maher, hire Jackie Orner! Enough is enough already. We have gone through two tax collectors November! She should have been offered the position before Mrs. Dean was hired (no personal offense to her, by the way). Jackie previously worked in that office and did one hell of a job. She got the credit card machine that was so desperately needed (and long overdue) and is now certified. She is honest, trustworthy, professional, always ready for a challenge and is of the same political party as the previous two were, Republican. She brought much stability and organization to the office. She deserves to at least be offered the position for the one plus year remaining and has my utmost respect! How 'bout it, Mr. Temple???
MOM August 24, 2012 at 02:17 AM
(since November) . . .
Janis Hardy August 24, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Dave, the revelations in your response blew me away! Consider this: If significantly more towns in CT hire rather than elect, that suggests that more and more communities are realizing that certain positions no longer belong in the political realm. To me, electing a tax collector these days makes about as much sense as the DTC and the RTC each selecting a person to run in the next election, the winner of which would become the president of the company you work for. Not a very effective way to fill such an important position! The real problem here is that most of the people we elect to the BOF and BOS fail to acknowledge how important some of our public service jobs are, how technical and professionally demanding they have become over the years, and that they no longer can be filled by untrained or uncertified individuals. You get what you pay for, and it is about time we realize that we are going to have to start paying some of these positions a salary commensurate with what we expect from them, especially when those positions entail the handling of large amounts of money in any form. If a BOS hires someone and that person does not perform to expectations, the BOS accepts responsibility for the hire, then can terminate the employment if necessary. When the person elected fails to perform as required, we have no way to hold the town committee that put the candidate forward responsible, and residents suffer the consequences for up to four years. Not fair in my book!
Citizen X August 24, 2012 at 09:19 AM
Fairly obvious that the Town Hall can't manage hiring the right person or getting the tax collection issue straight. This simply may be too large of an issue for one person in a small town office to fix, but the situation obviously calls for a new, better direction than just appointing another tax collector.
Bonnie August 24, 2012 at 11:59 AM
As an employer myself I know first hand how difficult it is to keep good employees or any employees. Everyone is always looking for a better higher paying job, it's 2012 it's not 1980 when employees were actually loyal to their employers. I'm a firm believer when it comes to employees if they aren't serious or dedicated don't take the job to begin with, it's a waste of our money. There's taxes, insurance, unemploent compensation etc that employers have to pay even if that person only works a month or two. Just think if this was a elected position we'd be constantly at the voting machines. It doesn't matter if someone is hired or elected, if they don't wanna stay and work in the position that they were hired for they're not gonna stay. There's many many people that are always thinking about what they can do to make more money. Like Karen, she decided to steal it rather than work for it! Can't we hired an accounting firm to fix all the issues that Karen left behind and then hire a tax collector? Clean up the mess and move on......
David Yish August 24, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Janis, you are still miossing my point after all this time. I may agree with you NOW. In the climate we were in with the Tax Collector office under investigation when the Charter change was proposed, I thought it was a terrible idea to take this choice from the voter. I don't know how much clearer I can state it. Again it had nothing to do with party politics and everything to do with restoring faith in Town Hall.
Roc August 24, 2012 at 12:27 PM
This would explain why my check for taxes hasn't been cashed yet in almost a month. I better keep my copy.
GEG August 24, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Time to raise the salary. Positions with much less responsibility than this job easily pay $15-$25,000 more per year. If Oxford wants to end the revolving door situation, consider increasing the salary for this position.
carol August 24, 2012 at 03:38 PM
The Charter Commission was bi-partisan or non-partisan, as you know. No elected official had anything to gain or lose personally with the voters' choice. To be clear, I know the Commission did not propose to take voters' rights away with a hired position v. an elected one. They recommended it, but it was up to voters to decide, once they had the facts. They were denied the facts by Oxford's GOP. What else is new. At the polls, voters should have been diverted to the Charter Commission's Booth to learn the difference and consequences between the two options. They should NOT have been "told" to "just vote NO. 'They' want to take your vote away.'" That's exactly what happened at the polls, isn't it, Dave? Big yellow truck with HUGE "NO" written across it, on top of everything else. You guys denied them their REAL rights...to KNOW. Now...today...you guys changed your mind because you feel Town Hall has now gained voters' "faith?" That's a pretty weak statement to me. This is Politics all the way. You didn't want common sense to prevail under a democratic administration but you want it today? Interesting...All of you hurt Oxford, you know.
David Yish August 24, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Carol, I fail to see how anyone denied the voter the right to become educated on the issue. Yes there was a large sign however I stood there all day and was willing to discuss, at length, what my position was. from Memory, Brett and others who were pro-change were there also and available to any voter who was interested. I advocated for the position I felt was in the best interest of the town. Others who disagreed with me did the same. Then the votes were counted. That is what a democracy is all about after all. Believe me, I was on the losing end of many, many BOS votes being the minority member. There I stated my case as well and in the end, both of my fellow BOS members said that the healthy debate we as a board provided was good for the town as whole because it brought the issues to light. If a vocal few didn't bring the Charter Change question to the attention of the voters, do you really think anyone would have known what the change involved in the first place?
get it straight August 24, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Mom-How do you know that she(Jackie Orner) "did one hell of a job" ??? Because she smiled and was polite when you dealt with her??? Trust me she, in no way, had a clue as to what she was doing in that office. Also she is NOT certified yet and can not possibly be certified without more experience. Even the state knows better than to certify someone without some real experience!!!
Janis Hardy August 24, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Bonnie, this IS an elected position! Under our Charter, when an elected position becomes vacant, the Board of Selectmen have to appoint an individual to fill the vacancy until the next municipal election... which for us means next November we will be electing another tax collector to complete the four-year term that ends in 2015. The charter also requires that the person appointed must be of the same poitical party as the elected individual was. This requires the BOS to find another Republican who will be willing to take on the job. Not necessarily an easy task, since, considering the responsibilities, the job is not that highly paid, is in a state of transition, and is also attempting to reclaim a sense of trust with a town full of betrayed taxpayers.
Brett Olbrys August 25, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Dave is right, as Chairman of the Committee, I was there and for those residents that had questions, I explained the difference between hiring a Tax Collector and electing one. The Charter Commission brought forward this issue because it was a recommended action by the Tax Collector Review Committee, the opportunity presented itself, and there were many benefits. I still believe hiring a Tax Collector is the right thing to do, but the residents voted our proposal down and I don't think the time is now to second-guess them because why should now be any different than 2 years ago? Unfortunately the administration at the time didn't put forth an effort to stand behind the issue and support it publicly, so the "vote no" advocates did a much better job at getting out their message. I believe that had more residents heard the positive aspects of the proposal change, it would have easily passed. What's done is done. The Charter Commission moved on and passed much more needed changes this past year, which already came into play during the field initiative and because of those changes, the BOF followed a better process where Oxford residents were better informed and there was a set of checks and balances.
Kenn Maher August 25, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Hey get it straight, youshould get it straight before you open yourtrap! Jackie is certified and implemented the new procedures that ceyanne took credit for!
Ruby August 27, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Mrs. Hardy is more than beating a dead horse, more like beating a dead elephant. So you can elect somone and they resign after 4 months, You can appoint someone and they can resign after 4 months. you can change to a hired person and they can quit after 4 months. And your point Mrs. Hardy? I will stick to to voting every 4 years thank you. And to the person who suggested Orner be put back in must be a personal friend. Why would you put someone in who was soundly defeated by the voters less than two years ago? Ruby.
get it straight August 27, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Mr Maher Ms Orner is NOT a Certified Connecticut Municipal Collector. What certification you are speaking of I do not know, but the one that makes her a certified Tax Collector she definitely does NOT possess. Maybe you should check your facts!!!!! As a matter of fact, I insist you check your facts before addressing me again- I opened my trap because I DO know what I am talking about!!!!!!!!
Brett Olbrys August 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Ruby, you are correct that in either scenario, elected or hired, the person can resign and as we have seen in Oxford and throughout, elected or hired can misuse the power of their office. The difference though is that an elected Tax Collector needs no qualifications, no certification, no training, can't be removed if they are performing badly or misusing their office and will get paid regardless of their performance or use or misuse of the office. The Tax Collector position is not a political position because they yield no decision making power. They perform a specific function which is to collect taxes, which cannot be influenced by a political party or platform. For this reason and those stated above, the Charter Revision Commission felt it was best if the town moved towards making the position hired because of the many benefits we would have gained. But as I said previously, what's done is done, and there is no reason to revisit this issue since the voters rejected our proposal.
Ruby August 28, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Mr. Olbrys the voter will decide if an uncertified tax collector candidate is worthy to be elected or not. Did you know that someone running for the Judge of Probate, an elected office, does not need to be an attorney? Again, that's a decision left to the voter if the individual is qualified to be elected. Thank you, Ruby T.
Brett Olbrys August 28, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Elected individuals, no matter what the position, don't need to be qualified. My point is that for non-political positions, it is best to hire versus elect because you can set qualifications for the role and you have recourse if the person is not fulfilling their responsibilities. If a role has no political power, what are the benefits of electing that outweigh the benefits of hiring?
Ruby August 28, 2012 at 02:43 PM
What are the benefits of electing over hiring? DEMOCRACY.
Dad in Oxford August 28, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I agree with Brett. You say democracy, but why does this person need to be elected? Most CT towns no longer elect, so why does Oxford continue to live in the past? Looking to better how we do things should be a positive and your attitude (Ruby) will only keep us back
Ruby August 28, 2012 at 05:16 PM
DEMOCRACY - Government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly. I'm sorry but you are incorrect. Half the tax collectors in Connecticut are elected. (Not Most "Dad in Oxford / Brett Olbrys")
Kenn Maher August 28, 2012 at 07:02 PM
This is for Get it straight My Bad!
get it straight August 28, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Thank you Mr Maher
Dad in Oxford August 28, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Ruby, nice try, but keep guessing. I know this has been asked before, but should all town employees be elected? If not, why some and not others?

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