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Acting clerk suspended

Paad accused of taking tax money, then repaying it

February 02, 2011 - Did an Oxford Village employee take some property tax money from the municipality, then repay it?

Until an investigation by Michigan State Police yields an answer to this question, Acting Clerk M. Patricia Paad will remain suspended without pay.

Following a special closed session meeting Friday, Jan. 28, the village council voted 3-0 to change the terms of Paad's suspension from 'with pay' to 'without pay' effective immediately.

This suspension will remain in place until the investigation is complete and the results are presented to council for further action.

Paad was originally suspended with pay Jan. 25 by village Manager Joe Young after an allegation was made against her concerning some "alleged deposit irregularities."

According to a Jan. 26 memo from Young, there were "transactions" involving "some tax funds" that were later deposited into the village account "in full."

In a phone interview with this reporter, Young confirmed it's been alleged that Paad took village tax monies, then repaid them.

According to Young, although the alleged incident occurred "roughly five years ago," he was not made aware of it until Jan. 25.

When asked who made this allegation, Young replied, "I really don't want to discuss that yet."

Young could also not disclose at this point how much money was allegedly involved.

"A review is being conducted involving our auditors," the manager wrote in his memo to council. "Our police department and our insurance carrier (have) been duly advised."

Paad declined to comment on the allegations against her.

As is her right under the Open Meetings Act, she requested the Jan. 28 meeting with council be a closed session. As part of her request, she asked that a family member and a friend be allowed to stay while Young and recording secretary Rose Bejma be required to leave the room. Her requests were granted.

Paad had been working as the village's acting clerk since Dan Luick was fired from the position Oct. 12. Until then, she had served as deputy clerk. She is a candidate for the permanent clerk's position.

At Friday's meeting, Councilman Tony Albensi made a motion to remove Paad as acting clerk, which would have effectively made her the deputy clerk again, putting her under the direct authority of Young.

This would have meant Young could discipline or terminate her at his discretion.

As acting clerk, she's under the council's authority because, according to the village charter, the clerk is hired and fired by council, not the manager. Consequently, the clerk works for and reports to council.

Albensi noted the reason for his motion was so that council could find someone else to appoint as acting clerk.

His motion failed 2-1 with councilmen Tom Benner and Dave Bailey voting against it.

"I voted no because of the fact I feel like these charges should be answered and the information brought back to this council since she was the clerk at the time these accusations were made," Benner said. "I think the results need to be brought back to this council for us to make a proper decision at that time."

Albensi noted the deeds of which Paad is accused allegedly happened while she was under Young's jurisdiction, not council's authority.

Bailey voted no because he favored simply changing the suspension status to "without pay" at this point given there's still a whole process to go through regarding the allegations against Paad.

"If the employee should be exonerated, essentially found innocent, then she ought to get her missing pay back," Bailey noted.

Village President Teri Stiles was not at the meeting because she's out of town, while Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth had an excused absence.

During a phone interview with this reporter, Stiles described this whole matter as an "unfortunate" situation for the village given the municipal offices are currently short-staffed and this type of news draws negative attention to the community.

The president did wish to assure village residents and taxpayers that she doesn't believe the municipality is missing any funds.

"Based on the audits that we've had done subsequently, I feel confident that if money went missing, it was paid back," she said. "I think we've kept a pretty good eye on the finances . . . At this point, I'm confident that there is no money missing."

Stiles indicated that if a home or business owner's property taxes had been paid at the village office five years ago, but never recorded and deposited, it would have been discovered long before now.

"I don't think there has been a case like that, otherwise we would have heard of that," she said. "That also makes me feel confident that (the) money was paid back, if that's what happened."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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