Local officials have implemented a system of checks and balances at the office in an attempt to make residents feel more comfortable knowing that their tax dollars are protected.
Officials have made the changes in response to a scandal in which former Tax Collector is accused of embezzling more than $670,000 from the tax office over several years.
The latest money protection system in the office is a modern tax collection computer for the front desk. The machine works like a cash register that is controlled by a computer. Once a taxpayer pays a bill at the office with cash, the tax collector punches in the amount, the drawer opens and it prints out a receipt that verifies how much money was deposited into the town’s coffers. The tax collector cannot change the monetary amount on the computer screen once the receipt has been printed.
“There is now no question for the taxpayer about where their money is going,” said current Tax Collector Cayenne Spremullo, adding the computer cost about $2,300. She said this process will ensure there is no reason for her or the assistant tax collector to walk away from taxpayers with cash in hand.
Other safety measures have recently been put to use at the office to make sure taxpayer dollars are never again compromised.
For example, the town now has two full-time people in the tax collector’s office, whereas it had one during most of Guillet’s 24-year tenure in Oxford (assistant tax collector Sharon Lee Scinto was the first person to catch on to Guillet’s scheme, police say).
Also, the town is accepting credit card payments this year for the first time to avoid so many cash payments, a plan implemented by former interim tax collector Jackie Orner. And Town Clerk Margaret West received grant money to put cameras in the town clerk’s vault, the town clerk’s office and the tax collector’s office. Those are now in operation.
And, finally, First Selectman George Temple hired a deputy treasurer to audit tax collections on a weekly basis. That is done every Thursday by , who retired after 37 years in the finance department at Sikorsky Aircraft and is a former Oxford treasurer. The town has less than $2,000 in its budget to pay Palutis, and Temple said that rate could jump to about $3,000 a year next fiscal year.
While officials look to prevent future thefts, they remember how they say Guillet stole money for so many years.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Guillet would steal cash payments and then shift checks from other deposits into the daily batch filed at the bank to make up for the cash shortages. For example, in a scenario described in court, on Aug. 10, 2009, the tax collector’s office took in $9,255 in cash, according to town records. However, just $858 was deposited at the bank for that day, town officials said. Those same officials alleged in court that Guillet took checks from different accounts to make up for the cash shortage while she pocketed $8,397 that day. Officials believe Guillet took cash because it was the easiest way to steal.
Guillet has been charged with seven felonies, including six counts of first-degree forgery and one count of first-degree larceny following a two-year ; she has been accused of stealing more than although the criminal charges against her accuse her of stealing $243,902. The most serious charge, first-degree larceny, is a Class B felony punishable by between 1 and 20 years in prison and/or up to a $15,000 fine. First-degree forgery is a Class C felony punishable by between 1 and 10 years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine. Guillet is currently free after posting 10 percent of a $100,000 bond.
She has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is expected to appear for another pre-trial conference at Derby Superior Court on Tuesday, Jan. 23.