HILLSIDE – It seems to be anyone’s guess as to exactly who will replace councilmember Frank Deo, who announced a few weeks ago he is stepping down after 13 years as a governing body member.
Two weeks ago Deo announced at a Hillside Council meeting he would be retiring as of April 1, explaining he needed to concentrate on his position as superintendent of schools.
“While I have enjoyed my service, it is getting increasingly difficult to be the full-time superintendent of schools and also serve as council person,” Deo told the governing body at the March 11 meeting, noting that he would miss many of the “dedicated public servants I have come to know over the years.”
Deo also thanked voters who he said expressed their confidence in him over the past 13-plus years, mentioning that as a life-long resident of Hillside and graduate of the public school system, it had been his pleasure to serve the township and people of the township.
“I leave with fond memories,” the governing body member added.
The decision came as a surprise given the fact the governing body member just defended himself in an ethics complaint brought by Democrat Municipal Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo a year ago involving his elected seat.
The municipal chairman brought the ethics complaint against Deo last March, claiming that because he serves as the superintendent of schools he cannot also serve as a councilman.
DeFilippo contended that the school superintendent has to be concerned with the education system, while council members must focus on watching township tax levies.
“Because matters impacting the relative financial condition of either the township or school district are inextricable interwoven with the governance and operation of both entities, it is not possible to cure simply by having Dr. Deo recuse himself from various financial decisions,” the municipal chairman said in her complaint to the state’s school ethics commission.
That complaint, though, did not hold water and Deo retained his council seat, until recently when he decided enough was enough. In an interview with LocalSource the day after announcing he would be stepping down, Deo explained further why he made the decision.
“I needed to put my priorities in order and out of that came this decision,” the superintendent said, adding that “the superintendent’s job is too demanding to do both.”
“The pace as superintendent has increased in recent years with all the testing involved. This position needs my full attention,” he told LocalSource.
According to Township Clerk Rayna Harris, officially the Hillside council has 30 days from April 1 to appoint a new councilperson to fill the open seat until a special election is held in November.
A public notice that was posted on the matter in town hall indicated a township council subcommittee on personnel will be interviewing interested candidates, but submissions must be in writing, including a letter of intent and in the hands of the township clerk by April 8.
The public notice indicated that an appointment is anticipated on or before April 22. However, the decision of who will fill this particular seat could be a political one, which means whoever has the majority vote on council will get to decide the person who will replace Deo until the November election.
LocalSource tried to reach both DeFilippo and Democrat county Chairman Jerry Green, but neither responded to calls.
When reached Mayor Angela Garretson said she did not know how the procedure for replacing Deo went, admitting she has been busy with township issues and has not focused on that issue.
“I really don’t know what they are going to do,” she added.