By JOHN T. WARD
After a brief closed-door meeting, the governing body voted, 4-1, to fire the chief financial officer, just hours before she would have attained tenure.
At a special executive session in an otherwise empty town hall, the council approved a resolution calling for a “separation agreement” with CFO Eugenia Poulos, effective immediately.
Afterward, Mayor Pasquale Menna told redbankgreen that Poulos would be replaced at Tuesday’s annual government reorganization meeting by the firm CPA firm Suplee Clooney & Company, of Westfield. The firm will be hired on a part-time basis both to run the finance department and conduct an audit of operations for 60 days, he said.
Menna said he was “not at liberty to say” why Poulos was axed, and said the change had been recommended by the finance committee.
That committee’s chairman, Councilman Michael Ballard, told redbankgreen afterward that the change “is part of our overall review of the borough.” He declined further comment.
Republican Councilman Mark Taylor, whose term ends Monday at midnight, was the sole ‘no’ vote on the measure. Speaking with redbankgreen afterward, he said he was “disgusted” by the move, adding that as one of three members of the finance committee, he was not consulted.
“If this was the direction they wanted to go in, they should have started a process months ago, but there is no process and there is no plan,” he said.
Taylor praised Poulos for her competency, and said she was frequently in the office on nights and weekends. During the executive session, he said, more than one Democrat “said they didn’t agree with [her termination], but they went along with it anyway” when it came to the public vote, which was witnessed only by councilman-elect Hazim Yassin and redbankgreen.
“It’s completely ridiculous, and everything I ran against: closed-door, lock-step politics,” said Taylor, who served one term and chose not to run for a second.
Taylor’s sole Republican colleague, Mike Whelan, was absent, and Democrat Eric Yngstrom participated by phone. Whelan, who told redbankgreen he was unable to attend because of work commitments, called the council action a “very sad and a horrible decision.”
He said the move was “based solely on a certain council member not liking her, which shows the direction Red Bank is heading.”
Poulos, 57, became CFO in January, 2014, after six years in the same position in Seaside Park. She replaced Colleen Lapp, who resigned to take the CFO job in Middletown.
Poulos could not be reached for comment. The attainment of tenure, which is available to a handful of municipal positions, would have made it “very difficult not to effectuate a reappointment,” Menna said.
The CFO, clerk, assessor and tax collector, “once they attain tenure, they’re basically there for life” unless they do something under statutes that allows for their removal, he said.
Menna, who only votes in the event of a council tie, declined to say whether he agreed with the move.
With the scheduled swearing-in of Yassin and Kate Triggiano as council members at the reorganization, Democrats will have complete control of the governing body.