Derby is rehiring the city’s embattled finance director

DERBY — The city‘s finance director, Agata Herasiwicz, can get her job back — if she wants it.

Herasiwicz was reinstated in her position on Wednesday after a sometimes tense meeting of the Board of Aldermen & Alderwomen. The board voted 8-1 to reinstate her, despite an objection from Mayor Rich Dziekan, who recommended her dismissal. Only Charles Sampson sided with the mayor.

Her reinstatement ends months of discussion and controversy over her being placed on administrative leave amid allegations of misappropriation of city funds.

Herasimowicz did not attend the meeting, but addressed the board in an email shortly before the meeting, which was read by Alderman Anita Dugatto.

“I still believe that I could have a positive impact on this city. But you are the judge,” she wrote. “I understand that changes and challenges are usually painful. But the results are very rewarding. Sincerely, Agata.”

Herasimowicz, Dziekan and Chief of Staff Walt Mayhew did not respond Thursday for comment.

Herasiwicz was hired by the city in May 2021, initially to help the city reorganize its finances. She carried on her job without issue until Mayhew was hired to replace Andrew Baklik in December.

Herasiwicz was placed on administrative leave in early March for unknown reasons, and Mayhew took over her professional responsibilities. A report released earlier this month, prepared by MahoneySabol, an accounting and consulting firm, suggested the suspension was based on allegations that she had misspent city funds on a number of occasions.

However, the report did not conclude that she had done anything inappropriate. While it was found that she had authorized payment for police video equipment without Board of Approval and Taxation approval, which the company says is not sound budgetary practice and not in accordance with the city charter, MahoneySabol deemed that act “appropriate” based on the purchase. ordered by the state and required to fulfill contractual obligations. In addition, BOOT had already authorized Dziekan to contract for the equipment.

The company also considered the hiring of temporary workers for the finance department and the tax office by Herasimowicz to be “necessary and reasonable” due to vacancies in these offices and the associated work backlog.

The report also said the city often approved purchases after the purchases were made and the supplier invoice received, departments did not always submit supplier invoices on time, and payments were not always checked for on-budget before approving them. MahoneySabol concluded that Herasimowicz’s overpayments were at least in part the result of a lack of defined financial procedures.

Dugatto pointed out that Herasimowicz has been working on drafting such policies and that the city needs their return.

Herasimowicz had other defense attorneys on the board, who indicated their performance had been commended by the state’s Municipal Financial Advisory Commission.

“I think the totality of the circumstances, the information that was provided to us, what she explained to us … she should have the opportunity to continue working here,” said First Circuit Councilwoman Barbara DeGennaro.

Resident Tom Lionetti agreed, saying he couldn’t understand what the city was doing.

“She’s doing a great job,” he said. “When I speak to her, I feel like I’m speaking to an educated person in finance.”

If Herasiwicz resigns from her job, she will report directly to the mayor. That is still uncertain on Thursday.

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