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Helmuth knew about alleged tax theft, loaned money to repay it

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February 16, 2011 - Documents reveal an Oxford Village Council member not only had knowledge of an alleged embezzlement involving tax dollars, she helped conceal it with her own money and kept silent about it for approximately five years.

Under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, the Leader obtained Jan. 25-26 reports from village Police Chief Mike Neymanowski and village Manager Joe Young that indicate it was Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth who made the allegation that about five years ago former Acting Clerk M. Patricia Paad took an estimated $2,000 to $3,500 in village property tax money, used it to make her mortgage payment, then repaid the municipality.

Ever since the allegation against Paad was made public a few weeks ago, village officials would not release the name of the accuser, prompting the Leader's FOIA request.

These reports also show that when Helmuth found out about the allegedly embezzled tax funds, rather than report it to the village, she loaned Paad the money to repay the municipality.

"She was a very good friend of mine and I'm assuming you've had good friends in your life and you want to help your friends out," Helmuth told this reporter. "When it happened, I thought I was helping a friend out. It wasn't the right thing to do, but at the time, I thought it was the right thing to do, to help a friend."

"Maureen admitted that (this) was wrong and a mistake. She wished she had not done this and felt very bad and sick about it," Young wrote in his report.

When asked if she feels like she put her friendship with Paad above her duty to the taxpayers as a public official, Helmuth told this reporter, "I hope I did not."

When asked if Helmuth's involvement could lead to criminal charges against her, Michigan State Police Det. Sgt. Joseph White, who's investigating the Paad case, replied, "Obviously, that's up to the county prosecutor's office when they review the report."

"I could not comment on that because it's the policy of the state police not to comment on open investigations," White noted. "All of the information will be presented to the prosecutor's office and they'll make the determination."

The alleged embezzlement is reported to have occurred in the latter part of 2006 or early 2007, but Helmuth didn't say anything about it until Jan. 25 of this year.

This allegation led to Paad's suspension without pay, demotion from acting clerk back to deputy clerk (see related story on Page 3) and an investigation by state police.

On Monday, White indicated he plans to submit his report to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office in "probably two weeks."

"I am still gathering information from the village and I have a couple of interviews left to do," he said.

According to reports from Young and Neymanowski, Helmuth came forward now because Paad was a candidate for the village clerk position and she questioned her honesty. "She could not live with knowing that and have Pat be considered for appointment as village clerk," Young wrote.

The village has been searching for someone to fill the clerk's position ever since council fired former Clerk Dan Luick on Oct. 12.

At the time this alleged embezzlement of tax dollars occurred, Helmuth had not been elected to council. She was employed as the village's deputy treasurer.

Paad, who serves as the deputy clerk, was a co-worker and close friend to Helmuth.

Helmuth first discovered something was amiss when she was sending out delinquent tax notices five years ago.

"Subsequently, some residents came into the village office and presented Helmuth with receipts that showed they paid their (property) taxes at the village office with cash," Neymanowski wrote in his report. "Helmuth . . . discovered the missing tax receipts filed at Clerk Paad's desk with no money."

"She discovered that property tax payments were not posted or deposited by Pat Paad," Young wrote in his report.

Helmuth confronted Paad about the receipts and the whereabouts of the money.

"Being close friends, Paad admitted to Helmuth that she took village money ($3,000 to $3,500) to pay her mortgage, because her house was going into (foreclosure)," Neymanowski wrote. "Helmuth made a decision not to report Paad's actions, but to immediately replace the missing money by giving Paad a loan."

Neymanowski's report indicated Helmuth withdrew money from her personal savings account, cashed in savings bonds and replaced the missing village funds.

According to Young's report, Helmuth told him she loaned Paad a total of $7,800 and part of this sum was used to repay the village for the missing tax money.

Young's report stated that Helmuth told him the amount Paad allegedly took from the village was an estimated $2,000 to $3,000.

However, Neymanowski's report stated that Helmuth said it was an estimated $3,000 to $3,500.

When asked about this discrepancy, Helmuth told this reporter, "I'll be honest, I couldn't tell you the exact amount. So, I'm not going to correct the number."

Between low estimate in Young's report and the high estimate in Neymanowski's report, Helmuth said, "I'd say it was somewhere in there. I don't know."

According to Young's report, when he spoke with Paad on Jan. 25 and informed her of the allegations Helmuth made against her, she "did not deny the information."

"Pat admitted it was wrong and a mistake to take the village's money," Young wrote. "She did not deny any of the items reported as said by (Helmuth)."

Since this whole issue surfaced, Paad has declined to comment to the newspaper.

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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