The Guttenberg Housing Authority is investigating a roughly $109,000 payout consisting of unused sick and vacation time to former Executive Director Barbara Criscione, specifically mulling over what to do since the check did not receive approval from the board, according to sources.
Criscione, who retired at the end of last year and has since been replaced by Interim Executive Director Zinnerford Smith, is facing scrutiny from the board since the payment – which was issued in late February – did not receive approval from them.
Based on the meeting minutes (which is really more of an agenda) from the February 8 meeting of the board, no such item was presented to the board in the form of a resolution.
In an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request submitted by Hudson County View to the authority on May 3, we requested, in part, “the total amount of monies paid to [Barbara] Criscione as part of her retirement until the date this request is fulfilled.”
We also requested a copy of the resolution approving the aforementioned payout, as well as a copy of the check that was issued to Criscione.
These portions of the request were denied since “records sought are part of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the agency,” Smith responded in a letter.
However, he also stated that “the GHA anticipates that these documents will be provided to you in (30) thirty days.”
After more than 30 days passed without a follow-up, this reporter attended the June 20 meeting of the Guttenberg Housing Authority, asking the board when we would be receiving further fulfillment of our request.
Agency counsel Joe Manfredi said after the meeting that further response would be given shortly, but as of this writing, no follow-up has been received by Hudson County View.
The meeting had an uncharacteristically long 90-minute closed session to discuss the ongoing matter with Criscione, although no one from the authority would confirm outright what the closed session was about.
Olga Alvarez, the region II spokeswoman (which includes New York and New Jersey) for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said HUD is not currently investigating the matter, but advised the authority to recoup the payment if it indeed was not approved by the board.
“If overpayment or violations occurred, the board should collect the overpayment and report any violations to the HUD Office of Inspector General,” she told Hudson County View in an email on Thursday.
The HUD Office of the Inspector General’s responsibilities include fixing waste, fraud and mismanagement that occurs at local housing authorities.
Wayne Zitt, also a town councilman, declined to comment. Zitt was appointed to the housing authority board on March 5.
The other six members of the board did not have any contact info listed on the Guttenberg Housing Authority website and therefore could not be reached for comment.