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Temple Seeks Firm Figure on Amount Stolen From Tax Office

Amid frustration over delinquent tax list, town officials to examine whether stolen tax figure is higher than thought.

The amount of money former tax collector is accused of stealing is already high, and now town officials are speculating that it could be even more.

First Selectman George Temple said Monday he has good reason to believe Guillet may have stolen more than the $671,768 that she is alleged to have stolen in a civil lawsuit the town has filed against her. Just how much more could have been taken is what Temple wants to know.

“My feeling is the town deserves to have an exact figure as to what the number is,” he said.

Temple said Monday he wants to involve the state’s attorney in the investigation and prosecution into Guillet, whom the town has accused of stealing the $671,768 between July 2003 and December 2009. Temple and other town officials met in closed-door, executive session at Monday with attorney Fran Teodosio, who represents the town in its civil suit against Guillet. Town officials wanted to get an update about where the civil suit stands. Following the meeting, Temple told reporters the town is not considering an out-of-court settlement and, in fact, plans to get more aggressive in its approach to the case. Specifically, he said, the town will aggressively seek more information for the evidence discovery process and will attempt to learn more about the exact amount Guillet allegedly stole.

Town officials have long speculated that the number may be more than $671,768, but they now firmly believe they are right because of a new that officials recently pulled together and released to the public last week. That list shows about 2,000 people who have a delinquency attached to their files at Town Hall, however town officials say there are hundreds whose names don’t belong on that list. The reason is because Guillet, who was tax collector here for 24 years, did not credit people’s accounts even though they paid so she could hide her embezzlement scheme, town officials say. Therefore, several people’s accounts show they have unpaid balances even though they paid their fair share.

Since that list was announced a week ago, hundreds of people have flooded the new tax collector’s office with visits, phone calls and other correspondence. Some are angry and many just want this issue cleared up, Tax Collector Cayenne Spremullo said. The town is trying to do that, she said.

The list shows delinquencies going back 15 years – the longest the town can go back, per state statute – and it totals $10.3 million. Temple believes the actual number of delinquencies should be much lower; about 150 people have already showed they should not owe anything to the town even though their names are on that list.

Town officials now have another challenge ahead of them: figuring out what to do with people whose names are shown on the list as owing taxes but do not have any proof because it was so long ago. Temple said he plans to discuss how to resolve that issue with Town Attorney Kevin Condon.

Meanwhile, Guillet is facing charges in two separate court cases: one criminal and one civil. In a criminal case, she is accused by state police of stealing $243,902, although the criminal investigation only went back to 2006 because police said they discovered enough theft in that time to charge Guillet to the full extent of the law.

Guillet has been charged with seven felonies, including six counts of first-degree forgery and one count of first-degree larceny.

First-degree larceny, the most serious charge, 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.

Guillet has entered a "pro-forma" not guilty plea. "Pro forma" is a Latin term for "as a matter of form." In court, it is a ruling made as a formality in order to move matters along, according to Nolo's plain-English law dictionary. Guillet is due back in court on March 15 for the criminal case.

The town's civil case against Guillet is temporarily on hold while attorneys from both sides review details of the case. Currently, there are no events scheduled for that case, according to the state Judicial Branch's website. 

Editor’s Note: The sign in the photo attached to this article was submitted by a reader. It was placed on property on Good Hill Road and happens to be near former First Selectman Mary Ann Drayton-Roger’s house. Clearly, the sign shows some of the frustration people have with the delinquent tax list that was released last week; it questions why former tax collector Karen Guillet’s name was not on list of delinquent taxpayers. 

Nnacy February 28, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I mailed my car tax check in at the end of January - the check has still not been cashed - called tax collector's office - they have it - but still not deposited it - it is now February 28th -so my question to her was - how much is the town losing in interest by not depositing checks in a timely fashion - I know they are overwhelmed right now - but interest on potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars we are losing as a town.
John M. Joy February 28, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Given the banks are presently paying bubkes for interest, probably not much.
Nnacy February 28, 2012 at 05:10 PM
agreed but still not a good practice to have check lying around
Murf February 28, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I know it is stating the obvious but how is it the auditors did not find discrepancies over these years. What are they auditing? In the article it is stated "the criminal investigation only went back to 2006 because police said they discovered enough theft in that time to charge...it looks like there are close to 20 more years unaccounted for!
roxie February 28, 2012 at 09:40 PM
that is my sign i want to be perfectly clear my neighbor had nothing to do with me posting the sign where i did .maryann drayton rodgers was not my target for this sign!
Jack February 28, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Mr Temple is going to have his hands full with the class action suit being put together from property owners named in error on that list. How someone with a professional background such as his could have authorized this debacle is beyond me.
Rachael R February 29, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Jack: The person who compiled the list is responsible for any errors, since it is a public document.
Citizen X March 01, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Class action suit? A little more over reaction. I suppose anyone could try to sue over anything these days, but the idea that there could be a class action suit brought against a Town/Selectman for publishing a public document is ludicrous. Time to watch video of more over reactions, this time from the School Board meeting. Oxford's reputation was safer before the Oxford Patch because no one knew what the town & the politics were really like. Is every town like this? I don't think so.
Jean March 01, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Citizen X the Oxford Patch took the blindfold off the eyes of the average Oxford citizen who go to work, get home late and cannot make the various meetings in the town . Yes every town is like this that have the knowledge of the antics that goes on in their town hall and the town politics. The tax collector is another issue.
Someone March 01, 2012 at 07:05 AM
@jean: my town is not like oxford...please do not go around claiming that the antics in oxford are commonplace elsewhere...in my opinión, oxford is in a class all by itself...the tax collector is just the icing on the cake...she bilked the people for a ton o cash while people were busy arguing about this & that...what a great cover the debating over the new highschool was for her (for example)...the townsfolk are just as responsible for what happened in their own town hall as the elected officials are...come on now, who in this day in age pays cash for anything without obtaining a receipt?
Citizen X March 01, 2012 at 07:42 AM
I would also argue that at a certain point, a town outgrows those who have historically managed it. Oxford may forever be a small town, but even small towns have to manage relatively large budgets & projects. As such there is a certain level of professional management required to set things right & move them forward. After seeing the stories about Oxford in the past decade, I don't think you'll have many good people lining up to get involved, so instead you're mostly left with re-treads who are in a race to the bottom & they drag the town down with them. Most intelligent, well-intentioned people have left, will leave, or are marginalized. Yes, all towns have politics, & all towns have problems. But you don't need to look any further than Monroe, Southbury or Newtown to see towns that are light years beyond Oxford. Why is that?
Rachael R March 01, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Citizen X: You are right.
Dick Kaminski March 01, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Why would we spend good money to determine what a better amount is? What will be gained by knowing that the number is greater than $671,768? I would suggest that is only needed if and when it is required to pursue the civil suit brought by the town. By the way, why not say $672,000 or $670,000 or $675,000? Are we to believe the amount calculated is that accurate? If a more accurate number is REALLY needed are there other ways to approximate the amount? How about analyzing the collection rates over the past 24 years? What about looking at the amount of interest income projected annually? Are there patterns of increasingly worse amounts over the years? Just some of my thoughts.
David Yish March 01, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I absolutely agree that spending good money on additional expensive audits with little to no hope of recovering any more money would be a serious waste of additional taxpayer dollars. As already reported on The Patch, the Town of Oxford is already seeking triple damages from our former tax collector. How much more than $2M do we think we have a chance of recovering from her? How much more time beyond the maximum do we hope the verdict is if the number increases? Only 6 weeks after I was sworn in, this whole mess became public and it has been a constant issue ever since. The Town of Oxford has borne the brunt of the auditing and searching through the record. Dick K is correct, there are better ways to come up with even more evidence besides putting known incorrect information out to the press. I'd rather see this administration pushing the State's Attorney and Police to assume more of the investigative burden and get it off the backs of Oxford's taxpayers who have already been seriously harmed by the whole situation.
jeb March 01, 2012 at 08:24 PM
The reason we need to clear the list up is to prevent anyone from being wrongfully labeled as delinquent. Most of can be cleared by town employees without bothering those listed. Once these are removed you can send a letter to the rest to figure out if they owe. Second we need to distill the list down to those who really need attention. Third to develop a plan to recover money from those who are delinquent. How about the computer company that is a million in arrears? Is any one watching to be sure they do not blow town? No one expects we will get the $670,000 so don't waste money of finding more theft.
David Yish March 01, 2012 at 09:35 PM
It is a little too late to prevent some from being labeled as delinquent when a list is released to the press that labels EVERYONE on it as delinquent, isn't it? Why not send a letter instead of publicly dragging many into this to start as Mr. Joy and others have suggested on the Patch? if most can be cleared up by town employees without bothering those listed, shouldn't that have already happened and their name removed before this went to the press? The minutes of almost any BOS meeting from 2010-2011 will show that this was going on in an ongoing basis but possibly nobody checked. Sorry, I know that Mr. Temple and I come from the same party but I strongly feel that the burden should rightfully be on Town Hall to strive and get this more accurate descretely instead of placing that responsibility on the taxpayers themselves publicly. Haven't they already endured enough in this whole mess already?
Bernard March 02, 2012 at 12:27 AM
We have been electing the same person for years. This should be a job, not a political perk. The fact that the town kept this an elected position with silly calls about losing our rights is evidence that people really don't understand what is at stake. Also, this has to do with the Oxford "frugality" and not spending money on technology and systems. The fact that the first selectman trumpeted the proposed purchase of a computer for the tax office made me say whaa? Shouldn't we have had a computer in that office 10,000 years ago. To my knowledge, what have been implemented in the tax office are several low-tech checks which are OK for the time being. However, we would be well-served to hire a company to do a through review or our systems and recommend changes that would reduce opportunities for theft or misappropriation. And, Oxford residents would do well to not pay their taxes in cash ever again.
jeb March 02, 2012 at 02:31 AM
I think I read or heard some where that we had the lowest tax collection rate in the state for years. I don’t that that was the case for every year as some years had very low delinquencies. Those that were between 100 and 400, 2010 was almost 400, should have caused someone in elected office to look into why. You can all figure out who that should have been, multiple answers are correct.
Citizen X March 02, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Agreed. There was a press conference to announce that Town Hall bought a computer for the tax collector, which told the whole, sad story (I had assumed they meant a 'new' computer, not that computers were new to the tax collector's office, & that buying a computer therefore warranted a headline). What exactly were they using before?
Brett Olbrys March 02, 2012 at 05:18 AM
I know some disagree, but this is EXACTLY why the Tax Collector Review Board suggested hiring the Tax Collector versus electing one, which our Charter Committee brought forward 2 years ago, based on their recommendation. An elected Tax Collector is in office for 4 years, with no recourse if they are doing a bad job until their 4 years is up, and this is why the majority of towns in CT are opting to hire versus elect and the majority of the towns in CT that continue to elect a Tax Collector have less than 5,000 residents. Sharon Scinto was for HIRING, Dana Flach (Oxford resident) in Seymour is HIRED, Cayenne came from Newtown where she was HIRED...hiring was and is, in my opinion, the right way to go to hold that person accountable WITH immediate recourse if things are going bad.
Peggy Freeman March 02, 2012 at 12:16 PM
If we treated the entire town as a "business" as Joe suggests (complete with computers, and checks and balances) this would be a huge step in the right direction. Will the town vote for updated or at least some systems that should have been put in years ago ?- would it have passed a town vote years ago? All dollars paid by taxpayers/residents and used by any service in the town need a system to track it with - it's really just that simple. Now how much will it cost, and would it ever pass? That's another story.
John M. Joy March 02, 2012 at 01:03 PM
There have been two workstations in that office for years. The new machine is a POS terminal located at the front counter, under the watchful eye of a CCTV camera.
Citizen X March 03, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Hiring a tax collector might make sense but even had the former tax collector been hired instead of having been elected, it would not have made a difference. The point is no one knew what was going on & how the tax collector got the position would not have made a difference.

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