HOLMDEL – Municipal officials in Holmdel have scheduled a special meeting for Sept. 12 to discuss who could have authorized the approval of synthetic turf athletic fields without the consent or approval of the Township Committee.
The special meeting will be held in the municipal building.
During a meeting on Aug. 13, Committeeman Rocco Pascucci said unexpected bills which came up at a prior meeting were “irregular, unethical and possibly illegal.”
“At the last meeting, I asked T&M Associates to submit all the bills related to turf fields at the pool club and the land swap site near the high school,” Pascucci said. “I have received the bills. (The bills) do not show me who ordered T&M to do (these projects) and I know T&M would not start doing projects on their own. As far as I’m aware, no three members of the Township Committee approved (these expenditures).”
Pascucci said the bills amounted to tens of thousands of dollars and offered to read the expenditures into the record. He said “some entity” ordered the engineering firm to pursue the projects without approval of the committee.
At that point, Mayor Eric Hinds asked Ed Broberg, the manager of client services at T&M Associates, who provided the engineering firm with direction.
Broberg said the work to be carried out was previously coordinated with Donna Vieiro, who is Holmdel’s former township administrator, and Victor Stevens, the township’s director of infrastructure.
Vieiro resigned from her position in July following an investigation into claims she committed violations in her administrative position.
Vieiro and and another municipal employee were previously suspended with pay when municipal officials hired attorney Sean Kean to investigate an allegation involving the two women.
However, additional allegations were reported and include Vieiro allegedly taking between 65 and 88 work day absences in 2017, later modifying records related to those absences, and improperly issuing checks with township funds, according to Township Attorney Michael Collins.
“So the township administrator gave you permission to pursue these projects?” Committeeman Greg Buontempo asked Broberg.
“To the best of my knowledge that is correct,” Broberg said.
Buontempo then asked Broberg if the administration gave T&M Associates permission to carry out certain work without the approval of the governing body.
Broberg said the administration gave him the OK to move forward and said he could not answer the second part of the question.
Responding to Buontempo’s questions regarding subpoena powers and a potential investigation, Collins said the Township Committee has the authority to investigate any matter which involves the municipality.
Collins said a subpoena may follow an investigation.
“I just want to know why this taxpayer money was spent without my knowledge or the knowledge of other people up here,” Buontempo said.
Pascucci suggested that two years of emails from committee members to T&M Associates or to Vierio should be obtained before the special meeting next month; specifically, emails which pertain to engineering services at the land swap location or the pool club.
“We have to get to the bottom of this,” Pascucci said. “… This should not have happened. I don’t believe this happens anywhere else … Someone had to have knowledge of this and someone had to do it. I need to know who.”
Hinds asked what could happen to Vieiro if it is determined she authorized the work. No one answered Hinds’ question.
Pascucci said it probably wasn’t Vieiro, but he did not say why.
“I want you to know we would never ever undertake this work or any magnitude of work like this without proper authorization,” Broberg told the committee members.