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Agata Herasimowicz was judged “very good” at adhering to policy in a performance review completed in January.
DERBY — The city’s finance director received a positive performance review less than eight weeks before being put on paid administrative leave, The Valley Independent Sentinel has learned.
Finance Director Agata Herasimowicz was placed on paid leave in March so Mayor Rich Dziekan’s administration could investigate whether she violated Derby government policies and procedures.
However, her Jan. 12 performance review noted she followed policies.
The review included a section titled “adherence to policy.” Herasimowicz scored “very good,” the second highest option available.
“Agata is guided and governed by policies. Where policies don’t exist, she has asked that they be created,” according to the performance review.
The review was written by Andrew Baklik, the mayor’s former chief of staff.
The Dziekan administration has said Herasimowicz was put on paid leave because of questions raised by the Derby Board of Apportionment and Taxation about money being spent without approvals, a violation of policy and procedure.
However, those concerns were available to the administration prior to Herasimowicz’s review but are not mentioned in the positive review.
The review includes 11 sections that judged Herasimowicz on a scale of outstanding, very good, good, improvement needed, unsatisfactory, or not applicable.
Herasimowicz scored outstanding in four categories and very good in five categories.
Herasimowicz needed improvement in two categories: interpersonal relationships and judgment:
Regarding interpersonal relationships, Baklik said Herasimowicz needed to focus and organize ideas before presenting the ideas to others. Regarding judgment, Baklik said Herasimowicz needed to work on prioritization, delegating duties, and adjusting tone and pace to coworkers.
“She works very fast and can unintentionally lose people by operating hastily,” Baklik commented.
After Herasimowicz was put on paid leave in March, corporation counsel Vincent Marino, acting on behalf of Mayor Dziekan’s administration, commissioned an investigative report that was authored by Mohoney Sabol and Company, LLP, an accounting and auditing firm out of Glastonbury.
The report is embedded at the bottom of this story.
Marino said the report shows Herasimowicz violated the Derby City Charter five times. The Derby Board of Aldermen & Alderwomen discussed Herasimowicz’s job performance at an executive session held in the public’s view on Monday. Click here for a story. The discussion is scheduled to continue Wednesday.
The investigative report also notes the city lacks written specific policies and procedures in its finance department. So while Herasimowicz violated the charter, the report also found her actions reasonable. Click here for a previous story.
Herasimowicz’s fate — whether she returns to work, faces discipline, or is terminated — is up to the Aldermen and Alderwomen.
At Monday’s hearing, Second Ward Alderman Gino DiGiovanni focused his questions on the fact Herasimowicz paid for police department camera equipment without getting approvals from the Derby Board of Apportionment and Taxation to pay the bill, and to move money around in the budget to cover the expense. Alderman Charles Sampson was critical of statements Herasimowicz made regarding her job.
Deep into Monday’s meeting, which lasted almost three hours, Herasimowicz said she was put on administrative leave due to political interference into the finance department by Walt Mayhew, Mayor Dziekan’s chief of staff.
She provided The Valley Indy with a three-page letter addressed to the BOA/A. The letter states that Herasimowicz was hired July 6 “to help clean up the City accounting.“
However, Herasimowicz said she was surprised by the level of mismanagement within the finance department. Herasimowicz is Derby’s sixth finance director since 2012 (if counting ‘interim’ directors).
Herasimowicz said that when she started she found checks to the city scattered on the floor of her office, along with invoices to be paid taped to her office door.
“I was told that the City Finance Office needed a lot of work but no one told me how bad it really was,” Herasimowicz said.
She was hired after a Derby budget blunder, including the double counting grant money, put the city in a deficit that Derby climbed out of by raising taxes, lowering pension contributions, restructuring debt, and selling assets.
But Herasimowicz said mountains of work still needed to be done, such as working on state-mandated audits the city constantly didn’t file on time.
Herasimowicz said she was chipping away at the issues when she discovered city officials had budgeted for a $1.2 million state grant it was not scheduled to receive. She brought this to the attention of the administration and the Derby Board of Apportionment and Taxation in December 2021.
Herasimowicz said the administration turned against her after that meeting, and that Walt Mayhew, Dziekan’s chief of staff, started interfering with her duties after he was hired in January.
“My job was made even more difficult … after I discovered over $1.2 million of shortfall in the current budget. Since that moment I was undermined in my efforts to bring proper controls to the City,” Herasimowicz wrote. “Instead the new Chief of Staff (Mayhew) took action to oversight the Finance Director position to control the information given to the other board and the public.“
Herasimowicz said at Monday’s meeting that she was put on administrative leave as part of an effort by Mayhew to push her out.
Mayhew did not attend the meeting. He responded to a Valley Indy inquiry Tuesday morning, saying there is no plan to push Herasimowicz out: just a personnel issue between Herasimowicz and the mayor’s office that is under review by the Board of Aldermen & Alderwomen.
“The Finance Director’s comments are simply an attempt to redirect the focus of the investigation from her wrongdoing and not surprisingly have only been raised after she was placed on administrative leave,” Mayhew said in an email. “The facts of the matter are she violated the city charter on numerous occasions by exceeding line-item appropriations made by the BoAT, which was attested to by the investigator. Furthermore, she further violated the city charter on numerous occasions by making expenditures from line items that were contrary to their intended purpose, which was uncovered after the scope of the investigation was initiated in the regular course of business. Try as she might to project blame on others or make excuses for her substantiated violations of the city charter those are the facts.”
Derby Investigative Report by The Valley Indy
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