Government

Two DPW Employees Allege Livingston DPW Superintendent Misused Town Funds and Abused Position for Personal Gain

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LIVINGSTON, NJ – Two veterans of the Livingston Department of Public Works have charged that Mike Anello, superintendent of the DPW, used town funds to compensate them for work he had them perform on his home at the beach.

"In November 2010, Mike Anello asked me to paint his shore house. I agreed, and he told me he would pay me $1,000,” said Bill Peckholdt, a current DPW  employee. “Upon finishing his house, I learned that he was paying me through the town through overtime.”

Peckholdt explained that he accepted the overtime pay in his check because he believed it was his only recourse for recovering payment for the work he had done.

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"The only way I knew I could get the money was to accept the overtime – and, back then, Mike couldn’t do no wrong,” Peckholdt said “Everyone loved Mike. So, I felt that if I told somebody, they wouldn’t believe me. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Another former DPW worker, Al Werner, also told TheAlternativePress.com that he was involved in a similar situation with Anello one year earlier. Werner claimed he was asked to work on Anello’s shore house and needed extra time to complete the job. He told Anello that he would stay, but that he wanted his time deducted as either sick or vacation time.

Werner explained how he felt very uncomfortable with his exchange with Anello about his absence and time record.

In March 2009, Werner says Anello asked him to work on his new duplex in Wildwood Crest on the bathroom floors and to fix screens. Werner said he offered to use his vacation or sick time to finish the job if work was not complete by the end of the weekend.  “It took a little more time than I thought,” Werner said.

When Werner realized that the work would not be completed before he had to go back to work the following Monday, he called Anello and told him that he would stay to finish the job and to use vacation or sick time.

Werner said that Anello gave him a “yeah, yeah, yeah,” answer. He also said that Anello apparently never contacted his direct supervisor, Joe Detore, to let him know that he was not coming in on Monday. Werner came to this conclusion after receiving a call from Detore on Monday morning asking why he was not at work yet.

“I called Mike to see what was going on,” said Werner, who was concerned that his time was not being deducted from vacation or sick time since Anello was not giving him a straight answer and since his direct supervisor was never notified of his absence.
Werner claimed that Anello’s response was, “I’m the boss, I’ll take care of it, don’t worry about it.”

“At that point,” Werner said, “I contacted a social worker friend for advice. He/she took time off to speak with Alison Diner, the Director of Human Resources, on that Friday, March 13, 2009 (five days after Detore called him about his Monday morning absence). My friend told them that I was afraid for my job and that I wasn’t sure if my time was being deducted from vacation.”

On March 27, 2009, Werner received a letter from Michele Meade which stated the following:

On Friday, March 13, 2009, a friend of yours, [friend’s name] came to see Alison Diner to advise her of a situation that you were experiencing with Mike Anello.  Ms. Diner advised me of the information [friend’s name] provided to her and we began an investigation.  In addition to meeting with you, we met with Mike Anello and Dennis Britt.

The investigation revealed a long personal relationship between yourself and Mr. Anello.  We understand that this friendship preceded the time when Mr. Anello became your department head.  Unfortunately, the intermingling of personal and professional work lives has certainly provided an atmosphere of miscommunication and misunderstanding in this situation.  Your close personal relationship with Mr. Anello and his family and your inability to set realistic boundaries with regard to your assisting Mr. Anello with his family’s personal project, even prior to your transfer to his department in April of 2008, has certainly clouded the current issue.

We have discussed Mr. Anello’s lack of communication skills and boundary issues as a supervisor with him.  Please be assured these issues will be addressed.

During our meeting on Friday, March 13, 2009, we asked what remedy you wanted for this situation.  You asked that you not lose your job and that you not report to Mr. Anello. You also indicated that you did not want Mr. Anello to lose his job.  During this meeting we advised you that you would not lose your job over this incident and that you would continue to report to Dennis Britt, who is your direct supervisor.  Your interaction with Mr. Anello will not be required on a daily basis.

You advised us that you were going to seek out an EAP councilor under the Township’s Employee Assistance Program, and we certainly recommend that you take that action.  The EAP is there to assist employees with all types of issues and matters.  This is a confidential service and the Township does not receive any employee-specific information. We are told the total number of employees who use the service.

Going forward, if any other issues come up, please report them directly to Alison Diner or myself.  We want to assure you that we are here to assist you.

Cc: A. Diner

After that, Werner said that Meade assigned him to Dennis Britt and told him that he didn’t have to report to Anello anymore.

TheAlternativePress.com reached out to DPW Superintendent, Mike Anello, Township Manager, Michele Meade, and Livingston Mayor, Rudy Fernandez for comment.

When questioned about him asking DPW workers to work at his house on town time and being paid through town funds in a check containing overtime, Anello told TheAlternativePress.com, “I’m not commenting on any of that stupid stuff.”

Meade said the matter had already been investigated previously.

“The matter you mentioned from 2008 [2009] was fully investigated and deemed to be unfounded,” Meade said. “Since this is a personnel matter I cannot share with you any details. It is unfortunate that the 2010 matter was not reported to the township because we do not tolerate any impropriety by employees.  If information is forthcoming, we will immediately investigate and take appropriate action.”

When asked if he had any knowledge about an incident in 2009 that occurred, where Anello asked a DPW worker to work on his shore home during work hours, Fernandez said, “In regards to the 2009 incident, that matter was fully investigated [internally by Human Resources] and it [Werner’s claim] was found [to be] without merit.”

TheAlternativePress.com also asked if the town had knowledge of an incident regarding a DPW worker who was asked to complete work at Anello’s shore house in 2010 and was then compensated in his paycheck through overtime dollars. 

“We will fully investigate it and are waiting for the specifics of what allegedly occurred.  We can fully investigate the situation once this info is received,” Fernandez responded.
 

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