District officials declined to pursue a criminal case against a former assistant to the New Canaan High School athletic director even after more than $1,500 in cash was found in her office in bundles labeled ‘Football Gate’ from games that had taken place several months earlier, records show.
The cash, found in $20 bill bundles labeled ‘Football Gate 11-6-’ ($1,060) and ‘Football Gate 11-13-15’ ($500), were found in Anne Tomaselli’s office at NCHS after she’d been put on administrative leave in March 2016 for failing to report overpayments made by the district into her direct deposit account totaling more than $30,000, according to a police report.
“Tomaselli did work the ticket stand during football games and was in charge of all cash coming in to pay for tickets,” Police Sgt. Peter Condos, a detective, said in an incident report at the time of the investigation, obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a formal request.
“There are also allegations that she paid her workers in cash directly from the gate receipts, which is a clear violation of school policy, according to [Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan] Luizzi,” Condos wrote in a March 18, 2016 incident report.
Condos added: “Many questions initially arise from this discovered football gate money: Why was it in her office? Why the huge discrepancy in the amount found in the bundles (ie, is there an average amount per gate or was one football game far more attended than the other)? Why was it not deposited? Are other cash deposits made just after those particular football games? If not, why weren’t these included? Why is the entire amount only in twenty dollar bills? It would appear that if there was an entire football gate receipt, various denominations seemingly would be present. If not the entire gate receipts, where is the rest of it?”
Those questions—and doubts that authorities raised about Tomaselli’s explanation as to how she wasn’t aware of the overpayments—formed part of a monthlong police investigation that may have resulted in criminal charges against Tomaselli if not for a separation agreement that the district and former employee quietly reached as the 2015-16 academic year drew to a close. As reported by New Canaanite, under that agreement, the New Canaan Board of Education accepted Tomaselli’s resignation “in lieu of any proceedings” concerning the termination of her employment and she agreed to pay back the $30,000 to the district and not seek future employment with the schools.
Tomaselli had been involved with the New Canaan school system since 2004, according to the incident report, and had been a “season faculty manager” for athletics at the high school for several years. The details about how the Board of Ed addressed the money issues are coming to light in the wake of the widely publicized felony larceny case against two former lunch ladies and changes in how the district handles cash operations.
According to an April 15, 2016 incident report that Condos wrote as the case unfolded, “it appears that there is no check and balance to see if even the cash that is being taken in from a particular event is being deposited to the Board of Education account(s) and by whom.”
“There appear to be instances where cash is never deposited and no one is aware of it until many, many months or even a year later,” Condos said in the report. “I will meet with the auditor. It is noted that, with the exception of the main part of this investigation concerning the paycheck errors, there are no records or any firm determination of how much cash is being taken in and/or deposited. Part of the school system of dealing with cash appears to be on the ‘honor system’ and simply the trust put into a particular employee to properly handle cash—a significant defect that the auditor will address.”
According to Condos’s report, Luizzi filed a formal complaint with police regarding Tomaselli in March 2016, after district officials discovered that starting in June the prior year and for 13 straight weeks, she had received a $2,500 stipend for her work as a “designated seasonal faculty manager”—a payment that otherwise would have been made just once in connection with a single sports season.
“It is noted that Anne Tomaselli never brought this error to anyone’s attention and continued to receive the additional $2,500 for thirteen consecutive weeks,” Condos wrote. “It is also noted that her paychecks are ‘Direct Deposited’ into her [redacted] Bank checking account … She has also been a season faculty manager for several years and has received the $2,500 stipend many times before. In short, she is fully aware of how the stipend system functions and that receiving $2,500 in thirteen consecutive paychecks is clearly and without a doubt a major payroll error and that she absolutely would know that an error was occurring. Further, once the error was discovered the additional $2,500 payment abruptly stopped. Tomaselli for the second time made no mention of the drastic change to her paycheck.”
Luizzi told Condos that he put Tomaselli on administrative leave at that time and that “she was very upset and denied any wrongdoing,” according to the police incident report.
“She explained to him that at times she does not even open her envelope to scrutinize her paycheck since it is directly deposited and her husband handles the bank account and or any money,” it said.
Yet Condos said in a later report that he found Tomaselli’s explanation “implausible.”
During a subsequent interview with Luizzi, Condos said, he learned of “several inconsistent statements made by Tomaselli to him concerning the paycheck issue.”
“One of Tomaselli’s points about the paycheck was that she handles no money (only her husband) and many times does not even open the envelope that she receives biweekly that contains a copy of her paycheck,” Condos said in a May 15 incident report. “She was subsequently asked a few days later to proceed these unopened envelopes to lend weight to her explanation of not being aware of the error. She told Luizzi that after her initial meeting with him, she went home and opened the envelopes to observe the error firsthand.”
Tomasselli “also went to lengths to explain that her husband handles all money issues and he deals with all bank accounts as further proof of her unawareness of account balances, deposits, etc and of the continuing paycheck error,” Condos wrote.
“As part of the search warrant records, I requested online login records of the specific account where the direct deposit is made. At least 26 different dates and times the Town of New Canaan computers were accessed to log into the [redacted] bank account in question. Thirteen of those different dates and times the login was found directly in the paycheck error timeframe. Anne Tomaselli’s husband does not work for the Town of New Canaan and would not have access to their computers.”
In addition, Condos said, only Tomaselli had ownership of the bank account into which the direct deposits were made and “her husband’s name appears nowhere.”
Condos contacted Tomaselli’s attorney, Norwalk-based Bill Pelletreau of William A. Pelletreau LLC, and he declined to meet and explain what was happening.
“Pelletreau also stated that Tomaselli has the full amount of restitution for the paycheck error and is eager to immediately pay back all monies owed to the town,” Condos said in the incident report.
Pelletreau declined to comment when reached by NewCanaanite.com.
In June 2016, Luizzi informed Condos about the separation agreement, according to the detective’s report. The money had been paid back, the report said, and Luizzi sent a letter “attesting to the fact that the incident was ended by civil agreements between attorneys for both sides and that any criminal proceedings will not be sought, also per the agreement,” the report said.
Condos said he brought the case to the state’s attorney, who agreed after a thorough review that the matter had been settled through the civil agreement.
[Editor’s Note: One quote has been corrected so that it’s attributed to a police detective instead of a district official. Additionally, a reference to repaying funds as per a separation agreement was updated for accuracy and a reference to the district’s director of finance and operations’ start date had been wrong and has been removed.]