Republican Town Committee calls for resignations after findings comes to light
NAUGATUCK — The Republican Town Committee this week called for the resignation of two officials and raised concerns about transparency after learning of an audit of the tax office that found numerous issues, including that interest payments were waived in violation of state law.
The state Office of Policy and Management audited the tax office over the summer. OPM outlined 15 findings in an Aug. 5 letter to Tax Collector James Goggin. The most egregious finding was that Goggin waived interest payments for seven taxpayers.
Goggin said the taxpayers told him that they had mailed in checks but the checks hadn’t been cashed yet. He said the taxpayers all have a history of paying on time and he told them to wait to see if they checks would arrive. They didn’t, he said, and he told the taxpayers to send new checks for the original amount owed, without any interest.
The state only allows interest to be waived in certain situations. Any payments received after the due date must be postmarked before the due date to avoid interest.
“I thought I could accept the taxpayers at their word for their postmarks. I cannot do that. It will never be done again,” Goggin said. “If something is lost in the mail, the taxpayers have to pay the interest.”
The interest waived totaled $1,775, according to Goggin and Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess.
The audit also found the tax office stored checks to process at a later date and charged a $35 fee for returned checks and denied credit card payments, when the statutory limit is $20. The audit also found multiple procedural issues.
Goggin said the office held checks in a safe for a few people who traveled to Portugal and processed them when the taxes were due. Goggin said one check was missed in the safe and the interest was waived since it was postmarked before the due date.
On Wednesday, the Republican Town Committee publicly posted the Aug. 5 letter on Facebook after receiving an anonymous email about the audit.
In a letter to Hess, a Democrat, the committee raised concerns that several officials knew about the audit but it had not been made public, and the Board of Mayor and Burgesses and Board of Finance were not briefed on the matter. The letter called for Goggin to resign and Board of Finance Chairman Daniel Sheridan, a Republican, to be removed from his position.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Catherine Ernsky said the committee released the documents because Hess and Sheridan failed to bring the issue forward. She said it’s not up to one or two people to decide what information is appropriate to release publicly.
Ernsky said Sheridan was asked for any information on Goggin, who also came under fire two years ago after altering a woman’s check by 20 cents, before a recent meeting to approve raises for several positions, including the tax collector position.
The tax collector is an elected position in Naugatuck. Goggin, a Democrat, has held the office for 12 years and is running for re-election against Republican Kasdyn Click.
In an emailed response to the letter, Hess said after OPM found that interest was waived he had Controller Allyson Bruce and Sheridan investigate the matter.
Hess said in an interview he asked Sheridan to review the issue to have a second set of eyes and make sure it wouldn’t become a political issue, since Sheridan is a Republican.
“Dan has proven time and time again over a period in excess of ten years that he is the most knowledgeable taxpayer watchdog in the borough,” Hess wrote in the response to the letter.
Sheridan didn’t return a message seeking comment.
OPM’s Aug. 5 letter also made a host of recommendations, and the borough has and is working to address the issues found during the audit, officials said. OPM will conduct a follow-up audit in March.
The recommendations include that Goggin become certified through the Certified Connecticut Municipal Collector program and employees in the office receive training.
Goggin, who isn’t certified, said he’s taking the first of four courses now. Assistant Tax Collector Louise Sheedy previously completed three courses, he said, and other employees in the office will go through training.
Ernsky said had officials been forthcoming with the information at first and discussed it openly, there wouldn’t be as big of an issue now.
“I commend the tax office for beginning to implement the recommendations made to them in August,” she said. “If those who received the audit and the changes made in the tax office had been communicated this may have all been avoided.”