by Loumarie I. Rodriguez | Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 6:00 am
OXFORD — A Woodbury man is under investigation after $1.8 million was reported missing from the estate of the late Miriam Strong of Oxford.
The money had been set aside in her will for use by the town of Oxford.
On Monday, March 9, in Probate Court, District 22, Probate Court Judge Domenick N. Calabrese removed Attorney Peter M. Clark of Woodbury as executor of Ms. Strong’s estate.
Mr. Clark was replaced by Clifford D. Hoyle, a retired probate judge, who will be responsible for marshaling the remaining assets of the estate.
Mr. Hoyle will also try to recoup some of the assets that are missing, according to First Selectman George Temple, who spoke at a press conference on Wednesday, March 11
Mr. Temple said he has directed Town Attorney Kevin Condon to cooperate with the efforts.
Ms. Strong passed away in July 2010. In her will, she left money to the town to be used for the construction of a library, a scholarship fund for Oxford High School and the purchase of open space.
“This is a sad day for Oxford,” said Mr. Temple. “I knew Miriam Strong and she was a very energetic, focused individual who gave freely of her time.
“She loved Oxford as evidence to her very generous request to the town. It is infuriating that her requests would be defeated by individual greed.”
According to Mr. Temple, $1.6 million was for a scholarship fund for Oxford High School, $821,000 for the library and $821,000 for purchase of open space in Oxford.
Mr. Temple said it was a big disappointment for the committee appointed to study construction of the library since they are in the final stages and have worked very hard on it.
Ms. Strong’s estate was closed July 2014 when Mr. Temple started to look into the financial matter of her will.
He was originally told he couldn’t access the money because a fund and an administration for the scholarship fund had to be set up.
He said he was also told there were many liquidations that needed to be done as well when he started to get the sense something was wrong.
“I got the sense we were getting the run around,” said Mr. Temple. “We proceeded to go to Probate Court at my request. We discovered the reason why we were getting the run around is because the money was missing.”
Mr. Clark admitted to the Probate Court the money is missing. He has resigned from the Connecticut Bar Association.
This is not the first time Mr. Clark has been reprimanded for mishandling finances. In January 2008, the Statewide Grievance Panel for the Judicial District of Windham found probable cause against Mr. Clark for violating Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct.
He failed to properly maintain an IOLTA account and failed to explain an overdraft.
He later gave a conditional admission of fact of mishandling the account. The grievance arose when Mr. Clark failed to properly maintain his client’s ledgers and improper accounting resulted in the overdraft.
However there was no evidence of wrongdoing or fraud, according to court papers. Mr. Clark admitted guilt in violating Rule 1.15 safekeeping of property.
He was ordered to attend nine hours of continuing legal training at his own cost.
“I have complete faith in the dedication and ability of Judge Hoyle and I’m sure he will make every effort to correct this injustice,” said Mr. Temple. “Let me assure you that I will not rest until justice is done.”
According to Mr. Temple, Ms. Strong 100 percent supported the library project and left the money for it in her will.
He said he still supports the library, but said it’s possible it will less likely pass due to the lack of money.
Mr. Temple described Ms. Strong as an active resident of the town of Oxford. She was a member of the Conservation Commission/Inland Wetlands Agency for more than 30 years and many other town committees.
“Anybody who needed her for anything, she was there,” said Mr. Temple.
Mr. Temple said he could not comment on the ongoing investigation, but said he would meet with detectives from the state police major crime unit to assist them with the investigation.