The city’s $1.8 million tax lien sale conducted last month is being probed by federal authorities. An FBI investigator visited City Hall last week to obtain documents related to the sale, according to municipal officials.
Some had raised questions about the tax sale three weeks ago. Councilman Kenneth Morris questioned business administrator Nellie Pou about the tax lien sale during a public meeting on May 29.
Morris asked whether a certified tax collector conducted the sale. Pou reassured him everything was done according to procedure.
“Who conducted that sale?” asked Morris.
“Our tax collector,” replied Pou. She said the city has an interim tax collector, who conducted the sale on May 17.
Morris asked whether the interim tax collector was certified and licensed.
“We have a tax collector that’s certified and licensed,” said Pou.
The city’s longtime tax collector Kathleen Gibson retired last year. Morris asked for the name of the person, who conducted the sale. The city hasn’t hired a full-time tax collector to replace Gibson. Instead, the role has been filled by someone working part-time.
Pou at the meeting did not name the interim tax collector.
In its newspaper advertisement for the tax lien sale, the city listed Sonia Schulman as the certified tax collector, who would conduct the sale.
Municipalities are required by the state to conduct an annual tax lien sale. Investors buy the liens to collect interest or foreclose after two years.
The city’s chief attorney Domenick Stampone confirmed to the Paterson Press that investigators visited City Hall last last Thursday to secure documents from the tax collector’s office.
Stampone on Wednesday morning said an agent from the FBI’s Woodland Park office requested the public documents showing list of buyers and those who participated in the sale. He said there was no subpoena or warrant. Anyone can request those documents from the city, he noted.
Stampone cautioned on the use of the word “investigation” to describe the public records request.
“The proper legal process for conducting the sale was done by the tax collector’s office,” said Pou on May 29 when Morris raised questions about the sale.