Donna Vieiro, Holmdel’s former township administrator, said she became “a pawn in a political fight” after an allegation arose that she authorized the work necessary to install a synthetic turf athletic field without Township Committee approval.
“I did not by any means tell (T&M Associates) to do this work. Under oath, I am telling you that,” Vieiro told municipal officials during a meeting on Sept. 24 when the committee members publicly questioned her after Committeeman Rocco Pascucci said unexpected bills came up at a prior meeting.
Previously, Pascucci asked T&M Associates to submit bills related to the proposed installation of a synthetic turf field at the Holmdel Swim Club. He said the bills, which remain unpaid, amounted to tens of thousands of dollars and said “some entity” directed T&M Associates to pursue the project without approval of the Township Committee.
Committee members said Francis Mullan of T&M Associates, Holmdel’s Director of Infrastructure Victor Stevens and Vieiro are the individuals who knew about the turf field project.
“Over the past several months, my character and integrity have come into question,” Vieiro said, ” … The baseless allegations and accusations have caused a severe amount of anguish to myself and my family … To say I am devastated by these events is an understatement.
“As such, I sit here tonight and I have no choice but to address these painful and hurtful accusations. By doing so, I must do the one thing I dislike the most, boast about myself … Throughout my career, my work ethic and integrity were never questioned. I have never been disciplined, let alone suspended, for any reason.
“… Not once during my tenure with Holmdel, up until this personal assault on my character, did I receive any negative performance evaluations. I was (previously) given a contract extension and was praised by the governing body for my recognition from the New Jersey Municipal Management Association as Manager of the Year.
“… I would not wish this experience on my worst enemy. The pain and suffering the constant barrage of false accusations that have been fed to the press and placed on social media have been devastating … I never once used the press to defend or rebuke these allegations because I was advised against doing so by my attorney,” Vieiro said.
Vieiro presented the committee and members of the public with a timeline, which pertains to the preparation necessary to construct a synthetic turf athletic field at the Holmdel Swim Club.
Feb. 22: Vieiro said Mayor Eric Hinds asked her to obtain a cost estimate for the construction of a synthetic turf athletic field at the Holmdel Swim Club, which is located at 21 Bailey Lane. She said Hinds “emphasized urgency” and indicated the field needed to be completed by August.
“Mayor Hinds indicated he discussed this with the governing body, saying everyone was in favor except Committeeman Greg Buontempo,” Vieiro said. “I spoke with Victor Stevens and authorized him to obtain quotes for the project. The purpose of obtaining quotes was to present them to the committee at a public meeting … I did not authorize T&M Associates to do Victor Stevens’ work for him.”
Vieiro said Hinds indicated the size of the field that was needed and Stevens then sought project estimates.
“T&M Associates had already previously designed several turf fields over the last three years. They already had several field designs that could have been adapted to the swim club site. It was requested that T&M Associates conduct a survey of the site to see if the field size the mayor had requested could fit on the swim club property,” Vieiro said.
April 2: Vieiro said Mullan sent her an email with an estimated cost for the turf field. A not to exceed amount of $56,100 was included for T&M Associates’ engineering fee, she said.
April 3: Vieiro said Township Clerk Wendy Patrovich sent a draft agenda for the April 9 Township Committee meeting to herself, Hinds, the township attorney, the chief financial officer, the purchasing agent and other staff.
Vieiro said the turf field was listed on the agenda. She said representatives of T&M Associates were scheduled to present details of the project at the April 9 meeting.
“Over the next few days, (the township attorney) worked with Mr. Stevens, the purchasing agent, the chief financial officer and myself to confirm that documentation was in order,” Vieiro said.
April 5: Vieiro said Patrovich sent the draft agenda with the turf field project to committee members. The final agenda was posted on April 8.
April 9: Vieiro said the Township Committee meeting was cancelled due to the lack of a quorum.
“The committee never voted on the resolution and the (turf field) project never moved forward,” Vieiro said. “It is not correct to say I hid anything from the Township Committee, ever.”
The turf field project was suspended later in April when Vieiro was suspended from work after allegations were made that she advocated for the hiring of an individual who was related to another township employee.
Vieiro never returned to work and resigned in July following an investigation into additional claims that she allegedly committed violations in her position.
Updates from that investigation have not been provided by municipal officials.
Reading from a written statement, Hinds said, “I have seen good employees become fearful due to the actions of the committee. It’s my time to set the record straight … It’s been my goal and vision for 10 years to improve the recreational fields in Holmdel; certainly not newsworthy.
“In the beginning of this year, I had conversations with three out of the four (other) committeemen, (as well as) commissioners, leaders of all sports organizations with regard to a multi-purpose field at the swim club. All were in favor of considering this property.
“And why wouldn’t it be considered? (The swim club) is used for two months out of the year, it has the infrastructure, parking, lights and currently stands as an eyesore … The pool club was already included in the scope of the bonding for recreational improvements.
“In the spring, (Committeeman Mike Nikolis) was removed from the Republican line as my running mate … When I accepted the county nomination, a personal vendetta ensued and I have been attacked ever since. Up until that point, I believe Committeeman Nikolis and Committeeman Pascucci were in full support of my vision and plan for recreation. (This matter) has become purely political.”
Nikolis and Pascucci did not immediately respond to Hinds’ comments.
Hind said he asked Vieiro to “look into the feasibility” of constructing a turf field at the swim club, “but never authorized anyone to spend money.” He said expenses exceeding $3,500 need to be placed on a resolution and voted on by members of the governing body.