August 18, 2022

Chester Selectmen to Make Decision on Assessor as Labor Complaint Looms

CHESTER— The board of selectmen is preparing to make decisions on the tax assessor position as a complaint by the former assessor heads to a hearing before the state Board of Labor Relations.

The hearing on a complaint filed by Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) on behalf of former assessor Patricia Stevenson is scheduled for Thursday at the State Board of Labor Relations offices in Wethersfield. Stevenson, a Killingworth resident who has served as a full-time tax assessor for a decade, was dismissed by the board of selectmen in May.

The board acted on a 2-1 vote, with Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher opposed, after town attorney John Bennet determined the assessor job was an appointed position with a four-year term. The selectmen had not voted on an appointment for Stevenson since 2005.

First Selectman Tolm Marsh, with support from Republican Selectman Tom Englert, decided to explore cost savings in the assessor’s office, including the possibility of sharing an assessor with another town. Stevenson maintains she is a town employee and union member, regardless of appointment or reappointment. The selectmen in June hired Michael Bekech, the tax assessor in Waterford, to staff the Chester office for eight to ten hours per week.
Marsh said last week Bekech has determined the Chester assessor should work 18 hours per week, a reduction from the 27 to 30 hours per week the town has funded in past years. “We’re still deciding how to do it,” he said, adding the options include hiring a part-time assessor, or sharing an assessor with another town.
Marsh said he expects the board to make decisions on the future of the assessor position in September. Bekech continues working in Chester as the part-time interim assessor.