On Wednesday, the Board of Selectman in Morris voted in favor, 2-1, to terminate the town’s assessor.
Concerns regarding real estate property assessments were raised, and after a three-week investigation, Michelle DaSilva was terminated from her position as assessor.
Officials said in some cases, DaSilva failed to assess occupied houses and structures, even though they were occupied.
According to a letter from the First Selectman’s Office, officials investigated the review of 20 “improperly assessed land parcels showing more than $3.5 million missing from the 2015 Grand List, and a conservative estimate of over $250,000 in lost tax revenue due to errors.”
Officials said concerns about assessments in Morris have been raised before.
While the recent investigation looked at 20 properties, the Selectman’s Office has a list of more that will be looked at in the upcoming weeks.
“It is unfortunate that we have been placed in this situation. Every single taxpayer in Morris has been affected by these errors; some taxpayers have unknowingly not been paying what they owe due to the errors in the Assessor's Office and the rest of the taxpayers have been paying their taxes on an inflated mill rate to make up the deficit in uncollected revenue because of the Assessor's errors,” the letter said.
Morris officials said they paid DaSilva over $10,000 last fiscal year, in addition to her regular salary, to complete a full revaluation of properties.
However the amount of errors on assessments and the number of structures missing showed that the revaluation was not done correctly.
Officials said the assessor’s office will be staffed with an assistant to help with the resident needs and the day-to-day functions of the office.
In a statement, the lawyer representing DaSilva said she had been responsible for assessing over 1,400 residential properties over the last several years, and in that time her hours were cut to 15 per week and she had been denied an assistant.
"When the current board of selectmen took office, they cut off Michelle's remote access to her computer so that she could no longer get work done from home after hours," the statement said, in part.
The statement also said the hearing held today "revealed that the Town of Morris has no systems in place to ensure that the assessor is made aware of the issuance of building permits and certificates of occupancy."
The statement added that multiple female employees have been forced from their positions at town hall and that "Today Michelle was just the most recent targeted female."
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