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City may seek back taxes from fire chief

September 29, 2011

PAWTUCKET – Mayor Don Grebien and City Solicitor Frank Milos met Thursday morning to review State Police documents regarding the fact that Lime Rock Fire Chief Frank Sylvester housed and registered at least one personal vehicle at the district's Station 1 on Great Road for approximately 23 years.
After that meeting, Grebien indicated his administration is in the process of researching just how much Sylvester may owe the city in back taxes, and that it may pursue them.
“I reviewed the documentation with Frank Milos regarding Chief Sylvester, and we're in the process of determining how far back we would be allowed to go to perhaps recoup some back taxes,” Grebien stated.
“I've given the city solicitor full reign to go back and find out, a.) how much we're allowed to do that by law; and b.) to recoup the full amount after we determine exactly what the amount is owed to the city of Pawtucket.”
Grebien explained the meeting lasted about 30 minutes, and was held after Milos had reviewed all documents he received from the State Police on Wednesday.
“He came to determine that we, as the city, can go back a certain amount of time,” Grebien noted. “Our initial reaction was that we could back to Day 1 (or when Sylvester first registered a vehicle at the Lime Rock Fire District). For instance, there's a law that states – depending upon interpretation – that we may be allowed only to go back six years. That's one factor.
“The other factor is that the previous administration (Mayor James E. Doyle) and the previous city solicitor (Margaret Lynch-Gadaleta) had cleared the case (as of October 2010), and that could interfere with us from trying to do certain things.
“Still, what people have to understand is we're taking this very seriously,” he added. “It's my administration that reopened the case once we were informed by the State Police that it was no longer closed. This isn't a decision we can make in an hour, a day or a week, no matter what attorney (Mark) McBurney (who's representing John Cullen, the author of the complaint against Sylvester) tries to imply.
“We want to do the right thing, take the right steps and – at the end of the day – we're going to do what we're obligated to do by law, and what's best for this city … Another thing that comes into play: We're unsure if we can seek full restitution, or if – based on state law – we could only ask for the difference from what Lincoln has already received.”
Milos indicated he already has reached out to the city's tax assessor (David Quinn) and tax collector (Cheryl DiGiuseppe) for assistance in ironing out the exact value of what Sylvester may owe.
“We're also in the process of researching the legality of how far back we could go (in back taxes) if the city takes action,” Milos said. “It is absolutely in the preliminary stages. I just received the letter (Wednesday), as its dated Sept. 23, from the attorney for the State Police.
“It stated that the investigation regarding Mr. Sylvester was complete, and that no criminal charges (would be sought),” he continued. “It determined that Frank Sylvester had relied on information he had received from the DMV. That notwithstanding, (the chief) was told that he must register those cars in the city of Pawtucket immediately.”
According to Daniel McKinnon, Sylvester's attorney, Sylvester re-registered those vehicles to his Pawtucket residence, 94 Gates St., on or about Sept. 9.
“I always want things in writing; I never go by what people tell me,” Milos insisted. “Like I said, we're in the process of doing that legal research to determine how far back the city could go relative to any claim we may make on taxes we could assess.”
When contacted early Thursday afternoon, McKinnon stated he's currently preparing his response to the Ethics Commission, which ruled it would investigate the legality of Sylvester's registering his cars to his place of employment; and also to Grebien.
“I would anticipate that before the mayor and city solicitor make any decisions regarding any alleged back taxes that are owed, they would contact me so we could discuss any issues,” he said. “I'm in the process of researching all legal issues, and would be better able to answer any questions later.
“However, based upon the known facts, the chief did this only with authority from the Department of Motor Vehicles,” he added. “I'd anticipate the city would reflect upon that fact and conclude no back taxes are due; fairness would so dictate.”


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