July 4, 2022

Case of dismissed Chester Assessor now headed for Superior Court

CHESTER— The case of former town tax assessor Patricia Stevenson, who was dismissed on a 2-1 vote of the board of selectmen last May, is now headed for superior court.

Both the town and Stevenson’s union, Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees AFSCME) are appealing a decision issued in November by the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration. First Selectman Tom Marsh, who updated the selectmen on the case earlier this month, has declined to release the state board’s written decision because it remains under appeal.

But Stevenson, a Killingworth resident who had served as a full-time tax assessor in Chester since 2001, said last week the state order would require the town to pay her the difference between her unemployment compensation and her previous salary from last May through November. Stevenson, who had also served previously as assessor and assistant assessor in Westbrook, had been receiving $31 per hour for a 30-hour week.

Despite the provision for back pay, Stevenson, who is 67, said she wants to appeal the decision because it did not require her return to the job. “I still want to work and I need to work,” she said.

In moving to restructure the assessor position last spring, Marsh had cited a town ordinance that calls for appointing the assessor to a specified term, while the board of selectmen had not acted on a reappointment of the assessor for several years. Marsh also cited cost savings from reducing the hours for a state certified assessor. The board of selectmen, citing the appointment provision, dismissed Stevenson from the job last May on a 2-1 vote, with Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher opposed.

After retaining an assessor from Waterford on a part-time basis for several months, the board of selectmen last fall approved an agreement with Loreta Zdanys, the tax assessor for East Haddam, to serve as a part-time assessor for Chester. Marsh said Zdanys is working as assessor in Chester 16 hours per week, at a cost of about $800 per week.
Paul Wallace, staff representative for AFSCME Council 4, said it would be several months before a court hearing is scheduled on Stevenson’s case, with the hearing likely to be held in Hartford or New Britain.