Holmdel employees suspended, police chief named acting administrator

Holmdel Police Chief John Mioduszewski will serve as the acting township administrator while an investigation into alleged nepotism by the township administrator and human resources director is conducted.

During a special meeting on May 6, members of the Township Committee voted “yes” on a motion to hire attorney Sean Kean, of the firm Cleary, Giacobbe, Alfieri, Jacobs, of Matawan, to investigate an alleged act of nepotism by Township Administrator Donna Vieiro and Human Resources Director Denise Callery.

Deputy Mayor Michael Nikolis, Committeeman Tom Critelli, Committeeman Dr. Rocco Pascucci and Committeeman Greg Buontempo voted to hire Kean. Mayor Eric Hinds was absent.

Vieiro and Callery have been suspended with pay pending the outcome of Kean’s investigation.

Township Attorney Michael Collins declined to identify the individual who filed the complaint against Vieiro and Callery. He read a May 6 report, which indicated that an individual who was interviewed for a position in the township is related to Callery and was interviewed by her.

Collins said the relationship “presented a nepotism issue.”

Reading from the report he prepared that day, Collins said, “The complainant contended that (Callery) participated with (the complainant) on the panel for (Callery’s) relative’s interview. After the interview concluded, (Callery) openly advocated for her relative’s hire over a different candidate whom the complainant felt was more qualified.

“… The complainant alleged (Vieiro) was actively aware of (Callery’s) familial conflict throughout the hiring process, yet permitted (Callery) to actively participate in her relative’s own interview,” Collins said.

Collins said Vieiro and Callery were notified on May 3 they would be discussed by the governing body in executive (closed) session. He said they waived the right to have the matter discussed privately and requested that it be discussed in public, which is what occurred May 6.

During the public discussion, Collins said, “I don’t like discussing allegations in a (public) setting. I think it’s very uncomfortable and it’s not good to have these things aired because they are not substantiated.”

Committee members asked Collins questions prior to voting to hire Kean. Nikolis asked Kean, who was present at the special meeting, how the investigation would move forward.

Kean asked to act independently from Collins. He requested the township’s personnel policy manual, corresponding relevant documents and to “conduct an intensive interview with the individuals involved.”

“It won’t be anything like the Mueller investigation, right?” Critelli said.

Pascucci, who said he wants the investigation “to go as smoothly as possible,” asked if Vieiro and Callery could continue to work while the investigation proceeds. He then recommended suspending them with pay.

Nikolis and Buontempo agreed with Pascucci.

Critelli interjected, saying, “I think you have to take into consideration how (suspensions) will impact the employees in this building and the (township employees) who aren’t housed in this building. It’s a morale issue if you are taking leadership and putting them on the bench … The three of you are going down a path that is a mistake.”

Critelli asked Collins to read a draft resolution authorizing the suspensions of Vieiro and Callery with pay. The resolution stated that Mioduszewski would serve as the acting township administrator.

Collins did not disclose who, if anyone, would serve as the human resources manager if Callery was suspended.

On a roll call vote, Buontempo, Nikolis and Pascucci voted “yes” to suspend Vieiro and Callery with pay.

Before voting “no,” Critelli said he was apprehensive about “losing the most effective business administrator the town has ever had.”

Pascucci responded, saying, “This is unacceptable behavior … The two people in question should be out of the question while we’re getting this done … If Donna wants to walk, let her walk … I think she has to have big enough gonads to stay in place.”

Nikolis followed Pascucci’s remark and said “I never wanted to have this meeting in public.”

The resolution to suspend both employees with pay passed 3-1.

In response to a question from the Independent on May 7, Collins said officials could not comment on who, if anyone, would serve as the acting human resources director in Callery’s absence.

According to the resolution which outlines the matter, Mioduszewski would have been compensated at the “minimum of the salary range” for serving as the acting township administrator.

However, Collins released a statement on May 7 which indicated that Mioduszewski will forego compensation for serving as the acting township administrator.