GoLocalProv Investigation Uncovers More Tax Cheating in Lincoln
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Frank Sylvester lives in Pawtucket but works in Lincoln at the Lime Rock Fire District. He told GoLocalProv he had been registering at least two of his personal cars each year at the main fire station in the district. This year, that allowed him to save hundreds of dollars on his taxes because Pawtucket has a motor vehicle tax rate of $53.30 per assessed value while the Lincoln rate is $33.66.
State law does allow a car to be registered in a town other than the one where you live, if it is “customarily kept” there.
But Joe Rodio, a leading municipal legal consultant who serves as the legal counsel for Johnston, said that presumes you are allowed to have your car in there in the first place. He said Sylvester is not allowed to have his car at the fire station—even if the local fire commissioners approve—because it is public property.
“He is not allowed to keep his car on public property because the commissioners are without the authority to grant personal use to public property. This is a clear violation of the spirit and letter of the law,” Rodio said.
A GoLocalProv investigation reported earlier this week that as fire chief Sylvester had been registering his cars at the station since 1988—when he first started working there. Thanks to the lower tax rate in Lincoln, he saved nearly $900 in 2010 alone.
Sylvester says he checked with DMV Director of Enforcement Joseph Monteiro to make sure he was following the law and was told he was. But yesterday, Monteiro declined to comment.
The fire chief claims that he kept his cars at the station because of the demands of the job.
But he admitted that he still kept one car registered there even while he took another job as fire marshal—and was no longer working in the Lime Rock Fire District. “I kept it here because I knew I would be coming back,” Sylvester said.
“The fire marshal issue is even more blatant. It’s not connected to his job at the Fire Department,” Rodio said. “You can’t just pick and choose where you can park your car because then everybody in the state would say ‘I park my car in Charlestown, Rhode Island,’ where the tax rate is very cheap."
Sylvester said he was given a six-month leave of absence from his job as fire chief to work as the state fire marshal, but he ended up leaving after only three months—from the end of 2007 to the start of 2008. During his time away, he said he did not collect his salary or any benefits.
Sylvester regrets leaving his fire marshal job so quickly.
“I’m kind of sorry I didn’t give it enough time. I was there for three months. I was trying to get comfortable, but while I was there I kept getting calls from the Fire Department,” Sylvester said. “I came back here seeing how they wanted me back here. I felt this was my comfort zone,” he added.
Tax records show that during his time as fire marshal he kept as many as three cars—not one—at the station. In 2007, he had a 2003 Ford registered there. But the next year he had two more cars—a 2007 Lexus and a 2006 Ford Explorer.
Sylvester says he is willing to move his cars to Pawtucket if he has to. “If it’s wrong, I’ll be more than happy to pay my taxes. I’ll be happy to register my cars in Pawtucket,” he said.
He claimed he was being targeted for political reasons. And said he was determined to not let what he said was a spotless 43-year career in public safety be tarnished over the issue. “I’m proud of my name and I’m proud of my record,” Sylvester said.
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