Committeeman Pascucci: "If Donna (Vieiro) wants to walk let her walk. I mean I would love her to stay, you know how I feel about her but that's her thing and I think she has to have big enough gonads to stay in place - gonads. I vote to support this resolution (to suspend her with pay)"
Committeeman Tom Critelli. "I think the three of you are going down a path that is a mistake"
Resident Jay Yannello. "The degree to which this town is off the rails...is appalling and shocking. This is an embarrassment to the residents, to Monmouth County and this town needs to get back on the rails. This is appalling."
Unedited video of the meeting (courtesy of Holmdel's CILU organization) can be viewed below:
HOLMDEL, NJ - In a contentious and rushed special meeting, Acting Mayor (Deputy Mayor) Mike Nikolis, Committeeman Rocco Pascucci and Committeeman Greg Buontempo led a charge to suspend Township Administrator Donna Vieiro and Human Resources Director Denise Callery over allegations of nepotism. Commiteeman Tom Critelli voted no. Mayor Hinds was not in attendance. Both employees forced the Townhip Committee to discuss the issue in public instead of executive session. That is a right employees have under the law.
Hinds and Nikolis are locked in a five way primary election. Hinds is running as a team with Holmdel School Board Member Chiung-Yin Cheng Liu in Column 1 with all other regular republican candidates and the support of Monmouth County Republican Chairman and Sheriff Shaun Golden.
Hinds and Liu are the official endorsed Republicans on the Monmouth County Republican line. They are also backed by the Holmdel Republican Municipal Chairwoman Marcy McMullin.
Nikolis is running by himself in Column 4 after being dropped by the Monmouth County Republican Organization.
The public notice was sent out by attorney Michael Collins as the Municipal Clerk was out sick. Collins (a former member of the Holmdel Board of Education) discussed allegations made about hiring processes in the town. The allegations are that the HR Director pushed to hire a family member with the knowledge and participation of the township administrator (see video). It has been reported by many that the employee who made the allegation is the recently resigned CFO Jeannette Larrison. Larrison left Holmdel recently to be the Township Administrator of Milltown.
During the meeting, discussion ensued in regard to the allegations. A special counsel was hired to investigate the matter. The attorney hired to do the investigation is Sean Kean. Kean is also known to many as the Republican State Assemblyman in Wall Township, representing the 30th Legislative District.
The township attorney shared his report which was apparently previously unknown according to certain members present. "This is the first time we are seeing this." stated Nikolis. "I'm hearing this for the first time." stated Buontempo.
Committeeman Pascucci expressed concerns about investigation obstruction and said to Kean "You are going to be as objective as possible, I'm sure, because I have a feeling that there are some obstructionists up here (referring to his fellow elected officials)."
Buontempo stated, "One of the things that led to tonight was getting this meeting properly noticed. There was an attempt to prevent this meeting from happening tonight which concerns me greatly". He didn't elaborate. Pascucci asked Kean if the employees should be suspended. "Should these two employees be working with us for now?" "Is that something we can do?" asked Nikolis
Apparently, it was something they could do as attorney Collins had already prepared a resolution at the request of Nikolis to suspend them both. Apparently it was known prior then. It was moved for approval by Nikolis. "I just wished I had seen this sooner", said Pascucci. Collins apologized.
"I think the three of you are going down a path that is a mistake" stated Critelli. Collins advised the elected officials that the process is not so simple. "We can't just make a motion, we need to figure out terms" said Collins. He also advised them that the matter may end soon. "It's entirely possible that alot of the allegations that were provided are false and if that were the case, I'm sure the matter would clear up rather quickly."
In the meantime, the Police Chief will also be a township administrator and the municipality will, so far as can be known, have no HR Director. Both positions will continue to be funded by Holmdel taxpayers. The Police Chief and others were recently named in a lawsuit over a mugshot released of the school field defecating former Superintendent of Kenilworth Schools.
Mayor Hinds was reached by TAPinto today and commented, "I'm disapponted that they would suspend our administrator for no reason. Holmdel just received a AAA rating. She was just honored as Administrator of the Year. She's done an incredible job for Holmdel. To not have her services while Holmdel's taxpayers are paying her makes zero sense to me. I did not understand where she was in conflict at any point. I'm very disappointed."
Critelli had a dark view of the event. "My fear is that by taking this action we will lose the best township administrator that the town has ever had. Vieiro was recently named 'Manager of the Year' and Holmdel has earned a Triple A financial rating for municipal finance purposes. She was previously applauded for the results that few municipalities earn.
Committeeman Pascucci added, "If Donna wants to walk let her walk. I mean I would love her to stay, you know how I feel about her. but that's her thing and I think she has to have big enough gonads to stay in place - gonads. I vote to support this resolution."
During final comments, Nikolis stated that he did not want to have the discussion in public. However, at a prior meeting, he publicly called out for an investigation and the hiring of special council.
The discussion on employment matters didn't end there.
Viewed in the video: Nikolis supporter Serena DiMaso, a former Mayor and current State Assemblywoman, was pulled directly into the discussion on the record, by lifelong Holmdel resident Debbie Brew. Brew called on the Township Committee to 'not play favorites' and to extend their investigations into all hiring issues, including one identified through OPRA requests as involving DiMaso. Allegedly, DiMaso personally interfered in Brew's hire and continues to try to tell the elected officials what to do. Brew indicated at the meeting that she is reviewing her options in the matter.
"Since special counsel has been hired to look into hiring practices or matters where the township is concerned. I would like the improper conduct of the entire township committee regarding all matters including mine be included in the findings." Brew brought with her approximately 528 pages of communications that she received after her OPRA filing requesting communication regarding the job she was officially offered from Holmdel Township. She also presented 50 pages of communications that were released from the township that are from Serena DiMaso and sent to sitting elected officials and referenced Debbie Brew's job offer which was subsequently and suddenly retracted.
According to Brew the 50 pages have many redactions. Collins, she said, claimed attorney client priviledge.
DiMaso was referenced by another town employee as seeking candidacy for the Holmdel Township Administrator position. DiMaso has been in the older pension system for many years, receiving pension credit for her terms on the Township Committee and higher office as well. Since pension payouts with PERS are based on the highest three years of salary, a high paying administrative post for three years in a town such as Holmdel, would result in a large annual lifetime pension payment for DiMaso.
Other residents questioned the governing body on future meeting schedules and transparency concerns. There was a hopeful voice in the audience. Kin Gee thanked the Deputy Mayor and the Township Committee for investigating the matter. "Kudos to you guys".
View unedited video above (credit to CILU)