ANSON — Town officials are considering changing the position of tax collector from elected to appointed in the midst of a police investigation into more than $300,000 in missing tax revenue.

Meanwhile the town clerk’s request that money seized from her home as part of the investigation be returned has been rejected by the state attorney general.

The board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday for a regular meeting. On the agenda is the proposed change to the position as well as the ongoing investigation and an insurance claim the town has filed seeking to recover up to $250,000 of the missing money.

“Most of us think it should be an appointed position rather than elected,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Arnold Luce Monday. “If it’s appointed, you can get someone in there 40 hours per week, have oversight and control.”

Since March police have been involved in what town officials originally reported as a possible theft of $77,000 from the town office. The investigation uncovered $58,500 in cash at the home of Tax Collector Claudia Viles, and the money was seized.

Viles filed a motion with the Somerset County Superior Court asking that the state return the money, saying it came from annual payments for her work at the town office.

The motion was rejected by the Office of the Maine Attorney General on June 29, according to court records. Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin did not list a reason why the motion was rejected and did not return a request for comment Monday.

Viles also did not return a request for comment on Monday. Her attorney, Walter McKee, said he is waiting to set up a hearing with the Office of the Attorney General in response to the motion for return of property. A date has not yet been set.

In an affidavit filed in court in June, Viles wrote that the money police seized from a safe in her garage in April came from payments for her work at the town office. Viles is not paid a set salary but instead gets a percentage of the amount of excise and property tax collected and is able to collect fees per each transaction she does.

“These monies are not connected in any way whatsoever to any alleged criminal activity,” she wrote in the affidavit.

The position of tax collector is a one-year term with elections held annually at town meeting.

Luce would not comment on whether the board believes there is a lack of oversight with the position right now.

“It’s a touchy thing with what we should say and what we can say,” he said.

Luce said Viles, who has held the position for 42 years, told the board last year that she would not run for re-election in 2016. Her announcement came before a town records audit revealed the missing money, he said.

John Bryant, vice chairman of the board, said the change was something that he also supports and something the board had talked about doing that was not related to the investigation.

Luce said town officials have not had any recent updates from police regarding the investigation. In order for the position of tax collector to be changed from elected to appointed, the change would need to be approved by residents at least 90 days prior to town meeting, he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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