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Wednesday, January 6, 2010


UPDATE*** Thursday, January 7, 2010 - the corrected full version of the Arbitration Award PDF document is below. The original scan had missing pages

On October 27, 2005 Vilma Rivera-Saez began working for the City of Hartford in the Tax Collector's Office. Everything appeared to progress smoothly as she worked her way up to supervising cashier in the Tax Office.

At some point prior to August of 2008, Ms. Rivera-Saez apparently began noticing cash shortages in the daily cash receipts. Sources familiar with these shortages told me that Ms. Rivera-Saez had noticed suspicious activities by another employee in the cashier's office, and allegedly reported these suspicions to, at the time, Acting Tax Collector and Deputy Finance Director Lydia Rosario.

This attempt at reporting the thefts and suspicious behavior to Lydia Rosario was apparently the start of a chain of events that resulted in the eventual termination of Vilma Rivera-Saez from the City of Hartford.

According to the State of Connecticut Department of Labor, Arbitration Award (full report attached below)numerous details raise more questions than answers.

Apparently the person that was allegedly suspected by Rivera-Saez and others in the Tax Collector's Office, according to the report and City Hall sources, was a fairly new employee in the office, Yordano Vazquez. Whether Rivera-Saez knew Yordano Vazquez's ties to acting Tax Colector Lydia Rosario before raising her suspicions is unknown, but according to the Arbitration Award report, Rosario and Vazquez were very tightly connected.

The report details that both Mr. Vazquez and Lydia Rosario, the Tax Department head at the time, were both congregants of the same church. If that wasn't enough, the report states that Mr. Vazquez "is engaged to be married to Ms. Rosario's niece".

During the course of the hearing, testimony was entered stating that the city was unable "to account for more than $12,000 in cash shortages from July through December 2007". Although the city never produced any information or evidence that showed Rivera-Saez was in any way responsible for the thefts, on August 4, 2008 she was terminated from her position.

The interesting part is that although Rivera-Saez, as well as others, were complaining to Acting Tax Collector Lydia Rosario about their suspicions, Vilma was the one branded a thief. The arbitration panel apparently didn't buy that accusation. They state that "Although the City implied that the grievant (Vilma Rivera-Saez)had "stolen" money through an improper deposit scheme, there was no evidence offered to show the grievant was, in fact, a thief".

The panel further questioned the degree of punishment handed out by Rosario and former Chief Operating Officer Lee Erdmann. The panel considered Rivera-Saez's "unblemished disciplinary record" and said it appeared that Rivera-Saez received the "ultimate level of discipline, termination" while the cashier, Yordano Vazquez, "was only given a slap on the wrist".

Although this whole report would seem to raise some serious "red flags" regarding the looseness of cash procedures and controls in the Tax Office, the way it was handled by the City Auditors and Administration is even more troubling.

In the summer of 2008, apparently before Vilma Rivera-Saez was terminated, the City Auditor Patrick Campbell began to investigate a series of cash shortages in the Tax Collector's Office. Campbell's investigation revealed a scheme in which checks were substituted for cash in several daily deposits made during the month of November 2007.

Campbell apparently found that "someone" was taking cash out of the daily receipts and replacing the cash with checks received in the mail. Campbell testified at the hearing regarding the scheme "It operated by, say for instance, cash of $1,000 was received, just for instance,during a particular daily transaction. What happened was that some of that cash,a check coming in from and outside source, in this case coming in through the mail, was taken and was placed in that batch of cash, swapped out from the batch of cash. They took $500.00 out of the cash, put the check in there so it would still equal $1000.00".

Although Campbell's investigation showed clear criminal activity on the part of individuals in the Tax Collector's Office, no mention was made during any testimony as to an investigation or any inquiry by the Hartford Police Department. HPD sources have confirmed that no request for an investigation was ever made by acting Tax Collector Rosario or Auditor Patrick Campbell nor was an investigation into over $12,000 in stolen cash ever conducted.

Although no evidence ever pointed to Vilma Rivera-Saez indicating she had any part in the thefts, the Union brief quoted in the report indicates she was singled out by acting Tax Collector Lydia Rosario who was "looking for a scapegoat" and "simply blamed the grievant( Rivera-Saez)rather than her niece's fiance".

One hearing officer,Attorney Marc S. Mandell, in his written opinion stated "The scheme was not terribly sophisticated or difficult to understand...the scheme collapsed as it inevitably had to, given how clumsy it was".

The scheme was clumsy, as was the City's response and subsequent investigation. Many questions are still unanswered, the real thief has not been identified or prosecuted and the money has not been recovered.

In the end, the Board decided that "the City of Hartford did not have just cause to terminate Vilma Rivera-Saez".

It seems like someone with a little common sense could have realized that right from the start.

The entire report on the Arbitration Award is below

Arbitration Award Vilma Rivera Saez


Anonymous said...

This article is so hard to read and swallow especially when a ruptuation of a young man is being tarnished. Vilma knows what she did and preying on the weak is something that she is good at. I hope that Yordano can keep his head up and hopefully move past this. The tax office is hard place to work at and if you are not part of the administration you dont have a say on what happens daily. Policys and procedures dont mean a thing to upper management.

Anonymous said...

Vilma Rivera-saez Arbitration Award is missing pages.

Anonymous said...

Lydia Rosario should be fired. She has accomplished nothing in all of her "years of service" with the City. Someone needs to investigate her, there are a lot of skeletons in her closet.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Perez and his cronies from the top down all have some sort of scam, whether its a no show job....massive stealing....corrupt bid contracts...etc.

Anonymous said...

Someone should look at the previous city copier/printer contrac that was given to Ms. Rosarios boyfriends company. The City got ripped off big time. She needs to be investigated. What qualifications does she have to be in her position?

Anonymous said...

Lydia Rosario and Vilma Rivera-Saez should be fired for not reporting the thefts of the tax payers monies to the HPD. Lydia Rosario was the cause of more than just one employee of the City of Hartford, Tax Collectors office termination whether is was due to theft or discrimination. It is NOW time for Lydia Rosario to be fully investigated! How is she in management?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous, if you don't work for Lydia you don't know that what she says goes. For your information, Vilma and other people in our department did report the thefts to Lydia and other supervisors. Lydia said she would take care of it. She could not call the police on Yordano because he was dating and going to marry her niece. So she got rid of Vilma before she talk to management. I do agree with you that Lydia should be investigated.