GLEN ROCK, NJ – It’s been 11 months since the borough first warned DPW Director Greg Toro it wasn’t happy with his services. Last night, he was fired.
The Borough Council voted unanimously to terminate Toro’s employment, citing his “general management” style and mounting safety concerns. Toro’s lawyer, Christine Lilore, said the termination was a “retaliation” for Toro’s complaints about safety, including the “dangerous condition of the vehicles” and the borough’s failure to hire a full time safety officer, instead giving Toro the duties of safety officer when he complained about unsafe conditions.
Borough officials called a special meeting for 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 18, specifically to discuss two personnel issues, one in public and a separate one in private. Toro’s issue was held in public, although he was given the option, as he had on other occasions, to listen to the Council discuss his employment in closed session.
The borough’s labor attorney, Joseph Garcia, said, as he did at the September 9 Council meeting, the borough had wanted to discuss the “amicable separation” with Toro, citing poor leadership of the Department of Public Works for “quite some time.”
Toro was convinced he would be fired at the September 9 Council meeting during which several members of the public, in addition to employees he managed in the department, spoke positively about his service to the public and his behavior as a boss.
A few days after the Sept. 9 Council meeting, the borough administration said that story was inaccurate.
Toro maintained to TAPinto he met with Garcia on Sept. 3 and Garcia told him "the Borough will be seeking to part ways" with him, details to be discussed at the Sept. 9 closed session meeting.
But when that meeting went public, borough officials declined to discuss the matter and Toro was not terminated.
Fast forward to Nov. 18: Garcia reasoned the DPW director should be terminated because he had basically been “unresponsive” to directives from the borough, his direct manager--the borough administrator, Lenora Benjamin, and members of the public.
Garcia said Toro was first noticed in December 2018, and then again in January and February, about his issues with safety and general management of the department.
“The situation has not gotten any better,” Garcia said, and then recommended firing Toro that evening.
Garcia said the forum “should not be treated as a hearing,” stating Toro continued to maintain his due process rights. “You don’t need cause,” Garcia said. “You can terminate him at any time for any reason.”
Toro’s attorney said the borough had engaged in a “hostile work environment” and had ignored her letter to the borough regarding the issues and his duties, which she said were thrust upon him after he complained about safety.
“He could only do so much,” Lilore said, claiming the complaints against Toro were “artificially manufactured” in retaliation for his complaints.
Councilwoman Amy Martin, the liaison to the DPW, initiated the motion to terminate Toro.
“I like Greg very, very much,” Martin said. “But these are serious liabilities. There have been many scenarios over the last two years. I don’t feel we have many options. As DPW liaison, I believe it is my duty to make the motion.”
Toro spoke out loud at that moment from the audience. “She hasn’t been in the DPW building in the last three years.”
Councilman Michael O’Hagan seconded the motion and the Council approved the termination unanimously. Councilwoman Mary Barchetto was absent.