Derby’s finance director returns to work as healthcare payment issues arise

DERBY — The city’s chief financial officer is now back at work — just as the city deals with another financial issue.

The city recently had problems making payments to employees’ health savings account plans, according to two members of the council of aldermen and aldermen, as well as the union representing several city government departments.

Alderman and former mayor Anita Dugatto said the city changed the way it makes payments starting July 1, when the new fiscal year began. Alderman Sarah Widomski said morale at City Hall suffered as a result.

“The administration is unilaterally modifying past practices without communicating with employees or unions. This does not help to improve the already low morale at the town hall. It’s disappointing to say the least,” Widomski said.

According to Dugatto, the city did not pay for medical buyouts.

“Medical buyouts are usually paid in a single payment. And I think they weren’t paid all at once,” Dugatto said.

Dugatto, in a follow-up email, said a union president representing city utilities was filing a grievance but did not specify which union.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents the Derby Police Department as well as public works and city hall employees, confirmed there was a problem with the payments.

But Larry Dorman, the AFSCME Council 4 spokesman, said the city is interested in the issue.

“We are aware of the issues with HSA payments and are working with the mayor to resolve them,” Dorman said.

But despite this latest issue, which she said she was unaware of until she returned on Monday, finance director Agata Herasimowicz said she returned to work because she said she was making progress in fixing Derby’s finances and that it had to achieve this.

Herassimowicz is back after months of administrative leave, having been accused of misspending city funds. A recent report by outside accounting firm MahoneySabol cleared her of any serious wrongdoing and she was reinstated by the Board of Aldermen in late June.

She has her work cut out for her. While chief of staff Walt Mayhew took on the responsibilities of the CFO role in his absence, Herasimowicz said she needed to catch up on her workload.

“I try to catch up, to understand what is missing. That’s my goal right now. Not paying attention to other distractions. I try to be productive basically. It’s a good feeling,” Herassimowicz said.

Before she could start work, Herasimowicz had to meet with Mayor Richard Dziekan and Vincent Marino, the city’s corporation attorney, to discuss her duties, according to an email sent shortly before she was due. invited back.

Neither Mayhew nor Dziekan responded to requests for comment.

The city had a bad fiscal season earlier in the year. There were complaints about budget line errors, and the school district also faced a budget shortfall during the same period. Herasimowicz discovered that the city had mistakenly budgeted for a million dollar grant the city thought it would get from the state in December.

She was then put on leave in early March. The accounting firm’s report says she failed to follow city charter in approving the payments without the Board’s Allocation and Taxation approval, but said her actions were ‘reasonable’ since the payments were about items for which the city had already signed a contract, or were needed to manage the workload of the finance department.

Widomski said she was happy that Herassimowicz was finally back.

“I’m glad to have a finance professional back in Derby’s finance office and hope the administration will work with her to do the right thing for the town,” Widomski said.

Herassimowicz said she felt lonely when she was furloughed, but was comforted to know the aldermen and aldermen supported her when she returned.

“I feel really welcomed by them and they supported me this morning, sending me emails… it’s a good feeling. That’s why I didn’t give up,” Herassimowicz said.

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Elaine R. Knight