Claudia Viles has resigned from her position as Anson tax collector after the Maine Municipal Association, which insures the town, said it will not provide bonding for any money she handles.

Viles was indicted by a Somerset County grand jury earlier this month on charges of theft, failure to make and file state income tax returns on five counts, failure to file or pay state income taxes on six counts and tampering with public records in connection with $438,712 missing from the town office between 2011 and last September.

She is scheduled for arraignment Thursday in Superior Court at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

After the Board of Selectmen got the notification from the MMA about the insurance bonding last week, they told Viles she would no longer be allowed to handle money, since it is illegal to collect taxes without bonding, said Board Chairman Arnold Luce Monday.

Viles resigned and the decision went into effect Thursday, Luce said. A phone call to Viles’ home was not returned Monday.

Viles had still been working at the Town Office since the discovery of the missing excise tax money launched investigations by the state police and Office of the Maine Attorney General in March.

Town officials said they could not remove her from office or limit her duties during the investigation because she was an elected official.

Viles’ attorney, Walter McKee, said in an email Monday that she had no choice but to resign because the MMA bond required for her to work was rescinded. The MMA based the decision on the Somerset County grand jury indictment handed down Sept. 3, he said.

“It would have been nice if she could be presumed by MMA to be innocent until proven guilty instead of the other way around, but there’s nothing she can do to change MMA’s incorrect view,” McKee said.

The MMA earlier this year paid a claim the town filed for $250,000 to cover the losses — the maximum that could be paid — and the town filed a lawsuit against Viles so the MMA could recover the money.

MMA spokesman Eric Conrad confirmed that the group had rescinded bond for Viles.

“Under state law that does mean she can no longer handle the public’s money, although if she can find a private insurance company to provide bonding insurance to her she theoretically could continue to serve,” he said. “That’s up to her to find a private insurance company that wants to provide that, if any does.”

The terms of the insurance policy state that the MMA can rescind bonding at any time, Conrad said.

The town received the letter from the MMA last Tuesday, and selectmen voted after an executive session Tuesday night to send a separate letter to Viles telling her she could not handle money, Luce said.

Administrative Assistant Tammy Murray has been appointed by the board to be tax collector until March, when Town Meeting voters will elect a person to the position or the town will appoint one, depending on the outcome of a November vote on whether to make it an appointed position.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Sept. 22. Residents will also have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed recall ordinance, which would provide guidance for the removal of elected officials in the future.

Luce said Murray is certified with the state as a tax collector and previously held the position in Madison.

Viles has not commented on the criminal charges and has denied allegations she took the money in the civil lawsuit the town has against her.

The missing money was first discovered in December, when former Administrative Assistant Triss Smith found a $78,645 discrepancy between the amount of money Viles had reported collecting in 2014 and the amount that was actually collected, according to a police affidavit related to the investigation.

Smith, who started working for the town in May 2014, had implemented a computer system that went online in September of last year that automatically credited payments, and the town also began making daily deposits of the money it took in.

Smith told police that she first asked Viles if they could figure out together what went wrong, but Viles was “adamant” that she would work it out herself.

In January, the town contacted Purdy Powers & Co. to perform an audit, which confirmed that $76,686 was missing from the 2014 town accounts. That information was reported to residents at Town Meeting in March as well as to the police.

In the affidavit related to the criminal investigation, Smith said that when residents paid excise tax on vehicles they registered at the Town Office, Viles would transfer the state’s money to the state, then give the town’s portion to the town treasurer.

Viles would hold on to residents’ checks, frequently cashing them quarterly, a practice that Smith said prompted many residents to pay in cash.

A review in March of how Viles processed excise tax payments revealed that she wasn’t recording the right numbers even though she appeared to understand how to do the job correctly, according to the Purdy audit report.

Richard Emerson, an accountant for Purdy Powers, met with Viles and Luce and had Viles show him how she processed excise tax receipts, including deposits. Emerson, in the affidavit, said they also reviewed records from 2014, which showed that for several weeks she had done the work correctly.

But after a period, Emerson noticed shortfalls in the amount of money that had been collected in 2014, the affidavit said. The numbers that Viles had recorded added up to higher numbers than what she had listed on the bank deposit slips.

The shortfalls ranged from $6,214 to as much as $21,907.

In April, police seized $58,000 in cash from a safe in Viles’ garage, money that she and her lawyer, McKee, said is hers.

The amount of missing money escalated as the investigation continued, and the $438,719 represents what is missing between January 2011 and September 2014. Selectmen last week agreed to have an auditor review 2010.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.