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Tax collector departs under a legal cloud

After more than 150 years, the Town of North Collins soon will no longer have a tax collector on its payroll -- and the current tax collector may face prosecution.

Last week, the Town Board voted to eliminate the position and assign tax-collecting duties to the town clerk's office. The move will save the town more than $7,000 a year.

The current tax collector, Judith Ann Thomas, wrapped up her final collection in March, but she may face prosecution because of the way she conducted the collections while also running for supervisor.

The board was read a March 16 letter from Supervisor Thomas O'Boyle to Joseph L. Maciejewski, Erie County's director of real property. In the letter, O'Boyle accuses Thomas of "an illegal procedure" during the collection.

Thomas published a legal notice in the town's official newspaper Feb. 15 and 22 stating she would collect taxes at the Community Bank on March 6, 8, 13 and 15 and at Langford Fire Hall on March 9.

On March 8, Thomas confirmed, she was at the bank until it closed even after being asked by the branch manager to remove a "Thomas for Supervisor" campaign button from her shirt.

"I told [the manager] I would be collecting taxes at my home on the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th because I was training a new deputy. I told her verbally and left a note as well on the bank desk," Thomas said Friday.

But O'Boyle -- suggesting Thomas moved the collection process to her home so she could keep wearing her campaign button -- pointed out that the new deputy was hired in January and should have been trained by the time of the collectio.

He said he received more than 60 complaints when residents went to the bank to pay their taxes March 13 and were told to go to Thomas' home.

"I feel that it is the responsibility of the County of Erie and the Town of North Collins to investigate and possibly prosecute the tax collector, Judith Ann Thomas, for her failure to follow the law," O'Boyle said.

Thomas said Friday that O'Boyle's agenda was "political."

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