On Monday June 26, 2006, Hartford's Tax Collector Donald LeFevere made a decision that would forever affect his career and his future with the City of Hartford. LeFevere, in an e-mail, accused Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez of illegal activity. The incident involved Perez picking up a check for $54,000 from a property owner, Carlos Alvarez, for delinquent taxes on a property at 747 Maple Avenue. In doing so, Perez allegedly told Alvarez that his taxes were paid in full, and apparently "forgave" almost $10,000 in late fees, interest and collection fees. Tax Collector LeFevere felt that Perez's activity was illegal, and took the bold step of putting this in writing in an e-mail he sent to Finance Director Thomas Morrison, copied to Eddie Perez, Tax Assessor Lawrence LaBarbera and Economic Development employee Jose Rodriguez. http://www.scribd.com/doc/3811667/lefevere-illegal-email
Subsequent to LeFevere's accusations of Perez's illegal activity, through documents received through an FOI request, it appears that meetings were held to remove LeFevere and inquiries were made as to if LeFevere's state certification as a Tax Collector could be revoked. Ultimately, in a letter dated October 19, 2006, Hartford's Chief Operating Officer Lee Erdmann notified Donald LeFevere the "City of Hartford has recently received a number of allegations concerning the management and operations of the Tax Collection Unit of the Finance Department" and that "you (LeFevere) are being placed on paid administrative leave until further notice, pending the investigation of these allegations". We have requested documentation of the complaints or allegations against LeFevere referenced in Erdmann's suspension letter through an FOI Act request. As of this date the City has not complied with the request.
In minutes obtained of a January 24, 2007 grievance hearing, through LeFevere's union attorney, he was told that the City's belief "is that he is being paid, think of it as a vaca.. don't sweat it". Apparently, LeFevere didn't agree with that conclusion and pushed forward with his complaint. On August 6, 2007, LeFevere, his union, and the City of Hartford reached a settlement agreement which potentially will cost the taxpayers of Hartford in excess of a quarter million dollars in wages and an unknown amount in health insurance benefits as the City has agreed to pay LeFevere's and his spouses full health insurance benefits until age 65, as well as any supplemental insurance for costs not covered by medicare after age 65. Lefevere was paid almost a years wages from the time of his "paid" suspension until the signing of the settlement agreement, approximately $79,000, a lump sum of almost $35,000 after signing the agreement, another lump sum within 10 days of January 10, 2008 of almost $80,000, and another lump sum payment due after January 1, 2009. (Link to settlement agreement )http://www.scribd.com/doc/3811813/LeFevere-settlement
When LeFevere was placed on suspension, Lydia Rosario was appointed "acting" Tax Collector. Rosario, a close ally of Mayor Perez, was not a certified tax collector (CCMC, Connecticut certified municipal collector) at the time of her appointment. The CCMC certification process is administered through the State of Connecticut, Office of Policy and Management (OPM). As of this writing, the OPM has confirmed that Rosario is not now, nor has she ever been, a certified Tax Collector in the State of Connecticut. It is important to note that , according to sources, Rosario has been a focus of the Grand Jury investigating alleged corruption in the Perez Administration. Rosario was apparently the author of an internal memorandum that essentially doubled the fees paid by the City to political operative Abe Giles for moving fees for evictions across the City. Although the City has remained elusive as to fees paid to Giles or any contracts or changes outlining such fees, the memo apparently written by Rosario has surfaced during the Grand Jury investigation.
Through our FOI request, the city provided over 1000 pages of requested e-mails detailing the activities in the Tax Collectors Office, actions by the Mayor and his staff, Human Resources Director Santiago Malave, Finance Director Thomas Morrison and others. In an apparent violation of Connecticut FOI Statutes, much of the information was redacted or "blacked out" to avoid identifying persons , addresses, and other detailed information. FOI laws allow for redaction's in very limited instances, such as personal or banking information, social security numbers or information that would compromise ones personal safety.
Through our FOI request, other information was found that details a pattern of potential fraud and wrongdoing on the part of city employees in the Tax Collector's Office and the Finance Department. The City has not provided information as to the outcome of these investigations, and a request to the Hartford Police Department has not been able to provide any verification as to whether any police investigations or arrest were made. The reports do not detail any actions taken against the accused employees or whether they individuals were terminated or still employed by the City. LINK TO AUDIT REPORT http://www.scribd.com/doc/3811882/audit-review-cash
More on this to come as we proceed.