Former tax receiver Monica Rottach, who was replaced earlier this month after town officials said they found that a “significant amount” of tax bills had not been sent out for the second year in a row, was granted family medical leave at last week’s East Hampton Town Board work session.
This week, Budget Officer Len Bernard said that Ms. Rottach is out on leave for an amount of time to be worked out by the town attorney’s office, but said he could not disclose the circumstances surrounding her medical leave, including why she was replaced and the sequence of events leading up to her temporary departure.
“People have come up to me saying Ms. Rottach was fired, but that wasn’t the case,” he said in a phone interview about the replacement. “Obviously, it is the way it is. If somebody takes leave, we need somebody to do the job.”
He said, however, that Ms. Rottach still retains the title of tax receiver until the situation is resolved—whether through retirement or being moved to another position. He couldn’t speculate what other position she might be offered.
He said, however, that things are looking up since the oversight was discovered.
“We are pretty much caught up on all of the payments that needed to come in, and we’ve responded to all of the people who have called saying they hadn’t gotten their tax bills,” he said. “We had to get out in front of it. Within four to five days, we were all caught up.”
He said he suspects that many of the bills did not print out, which has happened before. He said bills also get returned by the Postal Service each year for various reasons.
“We’re pretty sure some bills didn’t print, but we still haven’t put our finger on what went wrong with the computer and why certain bills weren’t printed and identified as not sent out,” he said. “You have to understand that every year we get 300 to 400 pieces sent back that result in phone calls. We get several trays that come back undeliverable.”
He pointed to issues like late deed transfers from Suffolk County that caused tax bills to be sent out to the former property owner, or the tax assessor had not changed the address yet, or people changed their mailing address but did not let the Postal Service know.
But this time, there were more bills than usual that didn’t go out, he said.
Until he knows the details, he said couldn’t say much more except that an internal audit group is looking into the process of things leading up to the issue and everything that was done in response to it, as well as ways to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future. That information will be presented to the Town Board within the next two weeks, Mr. Bernard said.
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said Neide Valeira, a town accountant who replaced Ms. Rottach as tax receiver, has been put in charge and that she and the staff within the tax receiver’s office have made a great deal of progress.
“They’ve been responding to problems and complaints, catching up with data recording and bringing the house to order very quickly,” he said.