NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Housing Authority in May promoted Christine Warren, a former rental assistance program manager, to executive director of the agency that manages the borough’s five public housing complexes .
Warren replaced former Executive Director Kevin Knowles, who retired last month. She had worked for three years as manager of the agency’s federally funded Section 8 housing assistance program and one year as a public housing assistant.
Warren grew up in Prospect, graduated from Nonnewaug High School and worked as a mortgage banker for nearly two decades before she was hired at the housing authority. She has lived in the borough for 16 years and said she wants to use her newfound authority to secure more grant funding for public housing.
“I’m thrilled,” Warren said. “I’ve seen how it works and what we can change.”
Records show Warren and her husband, developer Jim Warren, owe the borough nearly $52,000 in back taxes between the two of them.
Warren, 43, lives with her husband and three children at 69 Kingswood Drive. Jim Warren owns a quarry off Route 68 near the Prospect line, where he runs a company called Capital Quarry Materials that sells and hauls stone, topsoil and other earth materials. He also owns Fulling Mills Development, which owes the borough nearly $29,000 in real estate taxes on the land off Prospect Street, tax records show.
Christine Warren is listed as the principal owner of Capital Heavy Hauling, which owes nearly $5,000 in real estate taxes dating back to 2008 on a vacant property at 125 Melbourne Court, according to borough records. The Connecticut Secretary of the State lists the company as active, but Christine Warren said she thought it had been dissolved into Capital Quarry Materials or C.Q.M., which does not owe any taxes to the borough.
Until recently, Capital Heavy Hauling’s tax bill was much higher, but Tax Collector James Goggin said $14,000 in motor vehicle and personal property taxes were paid May 7 and May 8. Christine Warren began her new job May 7.
Another vacant lot at 121 Melbourne Court in Jim Warren’s name has amassed nearly $15,000 in real estate taxes that were never paid since 1997, according to borough tax records. The family’s Kingswood Drive home is in Christine Warren’s name and has no outstanding taxes, but more than $3,000 in taxes are owed on a Kingswood Drive parcel listed as Jim Warren’s, which the assessor’s office notes was combined in 1999 with the family property.
Christine Warren said she did not know any taxes were owed. She said she had never received any notification from the borough.
“As far as I know, everything’s paid to date,” Warren said. “I can’t even agree with any of these dollar amounts, because I know nothing about that.”
An “intent to lien” notice has been mailed to Warren’s house, addressed to Capital Heavy Hauling, for every year taxes were not paid, Goggin said. The Kingswood Drive delinquency could be a mistake, as part of the property was turned over to the borough in 2002 when Warren’s developer’s bond was pulled, Goggin said. The tax office is working out a plan with Jim Warren to pay the taxes owed by Capital Heavy Hauling and Fulling Mills Development, Goggin said.
“We work hard to collect back taxes from everybody, but real estate property, it’s not going anywhere,” Goggin said. “It’s not like a truck or a piece of property that can be thrown away.”
The Housing Authority was made aware of the delinquent taxes while vetting candidates to replace Knowles, commissioners said. Christine Warren was hired after a 3-2 vote on May 2, and she began work five days later with a salary of $60,000.
“She was the most qualified person,” said Theresa Swanson, the commission’s chair. “She knows our housing authority, she’s the most experienced, she’s covered other jobs there and she has a lot of new ideas.”
Swanson said she thought Warren’s tax situation was irrelevant to her new position.
“It has nothing to do with her ability to do her job as executive director of a housing authority,” Swanson said.
Joan Taf, a recently appointed commissioner, was mayor when the borough passed an ordinance barring tax delinquents from securing development permits. Taf said she did not vote for Warren because she preferred another candidate, Karen Ingraham, who she thought had more management experience.
“It was a concern,” Taf said of Warren’s taxes, “but I felt that I voted for the other person because of the qualifications, not because of the money owed to the town. … [Warren] was better qualified in the job that she was doing and she was an asset in that Section 8 position.”
The housing authority is governed by state statute and funded through the federal government and tenants’ fees. The mayor appoints the housing authority’s commission members, but the commission operates independently from borough government, and the Board of Mayor and Burgesses does not have a say in its hiring process.
Maria Fidalgo, the housing authority’s treasurer, said she was not bothered by Warren’s tax bill, especially knowing her husband is in the hard-hit construction industry.
“I am offended that that could be even a consideration for someone we know is perfect for the job, and she’s hit the ground running,” Fidalgo said.