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RED BANK: WHAT HR HEAD KNEW IN DISPUTE

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-9108919Almost two months before she filed allegations of harassment by the town’s administrator, Red Bank’s personnel director was told her job was on the line, borough officials claim.

The assertion that human resources manager Eva Biviano had been informed her employment was at risk would appear to contradict statements made by her lawyer, who’s also her brother.

But he says that does not undermine her allegations about “months of abuse” by Business Administrator Ziad Shehady.

biviano-rice-notice-082718-220x192-7403609As reported by redbankgreen, Shehady told Biviano on Monday morning that her position was being eliminated and that she was being terminated, effective at the end of the month.

The firing occurred one business day after Biviano, a seven-year borough employee, filed a complaint with borough Clerk Pam Borghi alleging that Shehady had subjected her and other employees to “ongoing harassment, bullying, verbal abuse (including screaming) and otherwise threatening and aberrant behavior.”

Shehady was hired as business administrator, the borough’s top unelected position, in May. He has not responded to requests for comment on the allegations.

As reported, Mayor Pasquale Menna said Biviano’s post was eliminated not in retaliation for the complaint, but as part of a “restructuring” of government operations recommended in a Management Enhancement Report commissioned by the council a year ago and made public in June.

The complaint was prepared by Lane Biviano, Biviano’s brother and attorney, who himself has served in numerous municipal government roles over his career, including as borough administrator in Atlantic Highlands, according to his website.

In response to Menna’s assertion, Biviano said Monday afternoon that if the mayor and council discussed his sister’s employment in closed-door session, they had violated the state Open Public Meetings Act, because she had not been given a so-called Rice notice in advance.

The provision gives employees an option to have their job status discussed in public, rather than in executive session, which is the normal practice.

But a Rice notice (shown above right) from Borghi to Eva Biviano dated August 27 appears to establish that one was prepared. It alerts Biviano to possible consideration of her employment during the executive session of the council’s workshop meeting slated for two days later.

The document was sent anonymously to redbankgreen Monday night. Borghi said Tuesday that she sent a Rice notice to Biviano by email on August 27.

On Tuesday, Lane Biviano confirmed that his sister had received the notice, contrary to his prior assertion, and said he had been unaware of it Monday.

Still, his sister was not told her job was up for elimination, he said. Almost two months passed “and no one said anything” about her position being in jeopardy, Biviano said.

Moreover, he said, the abuse she alleged in her complaint occurred.

“This is ongoing,” he said. “Months of abuse. It’s not like it’s one incident, and it’s not limited to herself.”

Among the documents sent to redbankgreen, along with a message that “the man did nothing wrong,” was a heavily redacted September 24 confidential memo by Shehady concerning, among other issues, jobs in the borough’s finance, payroll and human resources units.

The memo says that the “various functions of the human resource manager can be delegated to the Clerk, Chief Financial Officer” and a third employee.

The memo also states that matters “discussed in Executive Session at the last workshop meeting and agreed upon… will be acted upon in coming days.”

Biviano’s complaint, which alleges instances of purported verbal abuse by Shehady by date, includes three entries said to have occurred on September 24.

In one, Biviano claimed that Shehady “was dismissive, abusive and rather cavalier” when she met with him to discuss her workload. For 20 minutes, Shehady was “continually screaming, while otherwise interrupting me and berating me, personally,” Biviano claimed.

Later that day, Biviano claims, Shehady called her into another meeting and “demanded to know” if and why she had written an email that she’d copied him on.

“I copied Mr. S. to keep him in the loop,” she wrote. “Mr. S. began screaming that he did not want his name on the email, although there had been no prior issue with seemingly hundreds if not thousands of emails copied or referenced to him from me and various department heads.”

Also in that meeting, Biviano claims she “advised Mr. S. that he was not to speak to me or any other employee in this manner.” She said Shehady responded by threatening to write her up and place the report in her personnel file.

In a cover letter filed with the complaint, Lane Biviano included a “demand” that the borough “promptly arrange for a medical evaluation of Mr. Shehady to determine Mr. Shehady’s mental or emotional fitness.”

Though she’s out of a job, Biviano’s complaint still “has to be investigated,” Menna said Monday. The matter has been referred to the borough’s labor attorney, he said.

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