UNION COUNTY — Charlotte DeFilippo may have felt pressured by bad press to step down as executive director of the Union County Improvement Authority, but the heat is not off by any means.
Last week the UCIA decided to hire an independent auditor to ensure all of the $150,000 the outgoing executive director received for unused vacation time over the last ten years was legitimately earned.
DeFilippo, 68, the executive director of the UCIA for 11 years, earned $160,000 annually.
On May 3 the UCIA hastily called an emergency meeting where DeFilippo announced she would be stepping down from the executive director position after 11 years at the helm.
DeFilippo also announced the same day she would be stepping down as county Democrat chair following the primary June 4, a post she has held for more than several decades.
DeFilippo has maintained that stepping down was an act of retirement, and had little to do with the ongoing controversy.
The review order came after state Local Finance Board Chairman Tom Neff questioned exactly who had been keeping track of DeFilippo’s vacation time, expressing outrage over the executive director’s high salary and lack of oversight by the UCIA.
UCIA Legal Counsel Jonathan Williams had gone before the finance board seeking approval to float $20 million in bonds for new construction projects at Union County College. The issue of DeFilippo’s salary and other perks were brought up by Neff when he took a closer look at a questionnaire filled out by the executive director.
“I’m not quite sure who supervises her. apparently nobody. Apparently she keeps her own time for sick and vacation days. It’s unconscionable,” the local finance board chairman said, according to a transcript of the meeting. Neff also said he would not approve any UCIA projects “as long as this is going on.”
Despite Williams attempting to defuse the situation over the following weeks, concern mounted that DeFilippo was becoming a liability.
Sources indicated at the time that discussions had been going on about the bad press involving the executive director, which they feared would have repercussions both for the UCIA and key political positions being challenged in the primary election June 4.
Late last week the UCIA announced the audit would be conducted, but continued to show support for DeFilippo.
The UCIA board was expected to meet Tuesday night, after presstime, to select an independent auditing firm that has had no connection to the UCIA, county or Democratic party. The audit will look into the amount of time accrued by DeFilippo which she was compensated for in lieu of actual vacation.
According to the UCIA, the executive director has the right to compensation for unused vacation time in her contract. Unused vacation time is “sold back” to the UCIA for cash. As for the reasons behind ordering the audit, commissioners have remained closed mouthed other than to explain that one will be done.
“The audit will be conducted in order to provide the UCIA Board of Commissioners with more information about vacation time during Ms. DeFilippo’s period of employment,” the UCIA board said in a statement released late last week.
Over the last eleven years, the outgoing executive director put in for approximately 273 unused vacation days which she was paid for according to information obtained by LocalSource. But while some sources have maintained the executive director was entitled to every one, others have said DeFilippo may have stretched the truth about the number of days she was entitled to receive. DeFilippo’s contract gives her 35 vacation days a year. Her 273 unused days would break down to nearly 8 years worth of vacation days, out of her 11 in the position, without taking a day off.
Clouding the issue is the fact DeFilippo worked from home with the blessing of the county and UCIA and was left on her honor regarding the number of vacation days that were unused. However, UCIA board member Sebastian D’Elia, who also is the Union County Communication Director, explained what the executive director said about the issue.
“Ms. DeFilippo has maintained that the number of vacation days she has earned equals the number of vacation days she has used or has been compensated for. If this audit produces any anomalies, she will reimburse the authority for any discrepancy,” said the board member.