By Ron Leir
NORTH ARLINGTON –
The borough has hired two new key employees: a chief finance officer and a new recreation director. On Jan. 14, the Borough Council’s three Democrats voted to appoint Eugene Leporiere of Scotch Plains as its part-time CFO at a salary of $25,000 a year, replacing interim CFO/Administrator Tom Kane. The three Republicans abstained.
Kane had been filling in for James Mangin, who left last year after a dispute with the then-Borough Administrator Terence Wall.
A borough press release said that Leporiere has been CFO for Upper Saddle River in northern Bergen County for the past seven years, in charge of financial activities in a borough of 8,300 residents, slightly more than half of North Arlington’s population.
Leporiere will continue to perform his duties in Upper Saddle River while putting in 10 hours a week in North Arlington.
Leporiere previously served as CFO of Bergenfield and Hillside and, before that, was controller for the Irvington Board of Education and worked in a similar position for Emcore Corp. of Somerset.
“Mr. Leporiere has dealt with municipal and school board budgets for nearly 20 years, which I find a terrific asset for North Arlington,” said Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat.
And Council President Democrat Al Granell, finance chairman, said he was “looking forward to working with an experienced financial professional who will help the Borough Council chart a course toward fiscal responsibility and accountability.”
GOP Councilman Dan Pronti, who sat in for closed-door interviews with two finalists of the “15 or so” applicants for the finance job, said: “Gene interviewed well but when we got to the [public] meeting, I found out that others were interviewed as well. So I couldn’t sit there for the vote and say [Leporiere] was the best candidate for the job. So I abstained.”
One matter that came up during the interview process that Leporiere discussed with borough officials was a six-month suspension of his CPA license by the state Board of Accountancy, effective March 24, 2006. A complaint filed by the state Attorney General’s Office alleged that Leporiere “… in his position as Treasurer of the Union County chapter of the New Jersey C.P.A. Society misappropriated … $4,000” which he subsequently “repaid … plus interest … within six weeks to the chapter.” His license was restored Sept. 24, 2006.
Asked about this matter, borough spokesman Thom Ammirato offered this explanation: Leporiere was expecting a loan to pay for his daughter’s hospital bill but there would still be a gap to make the final payment on the bill so he asked the CPA chapter board for an advance and the board voted to grant him a $4,000 loan to be repaid in six weeks with interest. Nonetheless, a member of the state Accountancy Board asked that Leporiere be sanctioned and the board voted 4-3 to do so.
Whatever the case, Ammirato said that Leporiere getting the money advanced to him had no bearing on any of his public sector work
. Ammirato said the borough has yet to fill the other positions vacated with the departure of Wall, who served in the dual capacity of borough clerk and borough administrator.
In the other personnel action taken Jan. 14, the council voted to install Michele Stirone, a Jr. Vikings cheerleading coach, as part-time recreation director at $7,500 a year. She replaces James Herrmann, who has served in the post several years.
Massa said that Stirone, who works in the personnel/ accounting field in the private sector, “indicated an interest in the position and I interviewed her and a couple of others. She’s been involved in the borough recreation program a number of years.”
Last year, Massa said he’d “extended the courtesy of an additional year to Jim Herrmann and, after reviewing accountability issues, I thought [Stirone] would be a good fit. … I want to make [recreation] an inclusive program and I thought this would be a good way to show the community we are an equal opportunity employer and give others an opportunity to serve.”
Asked to elaborate about “accountability issues,” Massa said: “We’d like to see [recreation] vouchers processed in a timely manner. Some vendors were complaining that they hadn’t been paid. I believe that’s been resolved.”
Borough Republicans had pushed for Herrmann’s reappointment and several of Herrmann’s advocates attended the meeting to show support for him. Last week, Hughes said: “I have yet to see [Stirone’s] resume or anything about her. We didn’t know anything about [her proposed appointment] until the middle of the meeting when her name was revealed. There’s no transparency. It was completely out of line.”
Hughes also griped about “last minute” Dems’ nominations of appointees for the Board of Health, Recreation Committee, Planning and Zoning Boards, about whom he claimed to know little or nothing. “They also had an appointment to the Library Board but I knew her because she’s Al Granell’s wife,” he said.
Pronti, who coaches recreation softball and soccer, credited Herrmann with doing “a fantastic job … he’s always been on the top of his game.” But he said he seconded the motion to appoint Stirone, “not taking anything away from Jimmy,” because “I believe Michele is a capable candidate.”