Village claims $5K in tax funds missing
Records at suspended deputy clerk's desk show taxes paid, but no cash deposited
March 02, 2011 - (Editor's Note: We were the first to break this story Friday on www.oxfordleader.com)
Approximately $5,000 in Oxford Village property tax money is missing, according to officials, and paperwork discovered at suspended Deputy Clerk Pat Paad's desk indicates she could be involved with its disappearance.
"We discovered (it) while we were investigating records here in the work area that Pat was at," said village Manager Joe Young.
The discovery was made a few weeks ago and disclosed to the Michigan State Police, which was already investigating Paad for an alleged embezzlement of somewhere between $2,000 to $3,500 in village property tax monies from 2006-07.
MSP Det. Sgt. Joseph White, who handled the investigation, indicated he turned over his report to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office for review on Thursday, Feb. 24. Per state police policy, he could not comment on his findings or any specifics contained in his report.
White is now waiting to hear if any criminal charges will be issued. "It usually doesn't take too long," he said on Friday. "It will probably be a couple of days before I hear from them."
The approximately $5,000 in tax funds that are now missing were paid to the village in cash for the municipality's July 2010 tax bill, according to Acting Village Clerk Rose Bejma.
This was confirmed by Young.
"The $5,000 is cash," he said.
The village's first indication that something was amiss came in January when the municipality sent out 194 delinquent tax notices to property owners.
Some property owners who had paid their July 2010 taxes in cash came to the village office inquiring as to why they had received such a notice. These owners presented receipts showing they had paid in full.
During the course of her investigation, Bejma indicated she discovered tax statements in Paad's work area that "had been marked paid" and bore notations indicating the payments were made with cash.
"Joe (Young) usually has us write either 'check' or 'cash' on there," Bejma noted. "And if it's 'check,' we write the check number."
When she looked into things further, Bejma discovered these cash payments had not been posted on the county tax system or deposited in the village's bank account.
"It was not deposited because the cash wasn't there. I checked the bank statements," she said.
Bejma said she also found in Paad's work area multiple uncashed checks for property tax payments. These checks were processed and deposited in the village's account.
Bejma indicated that on Feb. 25 she sent out 120 delinquent notices, with letters attached, to property owners who have not paid their taxes. "The letter is going to basically state if you've paid them, bring your receipt in," she said.
Delinquent tax bills were forwarded to Oakland County March 1.
Bejma confirmed that as long as a taxpayer has a receipt showing their bill was paid, they will not have any further liability for it. In other words, the bill won't continue to be considered delinquent nor will they be forced to pay it a second time.
The approximately $5,000 in village tax money that's currently missing is completely separate from the property tax funds that Paad allegedly embezzled in 2006-07.
Those funds were apparently repaid to the village in full with money that Oxford Village Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth admitted to loaning Paad.
Helmuth, who was the village's deputy treasurer at the time of the alleged embezzlement, didn't report it to the village until Jan. 25 of this year, after which Paad was suspended without pay and an investigation by the state police was initiated.
Based on reports written by Young and village Police Chief Mike Neymanowski after they interviewed Helmuth on Jan. 25-26, the method by which Paad allegedly embezzled money in 2006-07 matches the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of this approximately $5,000.
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 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 the 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."
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.