After weeks of speculation about the future of town Chief Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller -- who was off the job for reasons that town officials refused to discuss -- First Selectman Michael Tetreau announced Wednesday morning that Hiller will be stepping down.
The abrupt announcement came after the first selectman and Human Resources Director Mary Carroll Mirylees had steadfastly refused to comment on Hiller's unexplained absence from work or his future status.
In his brief statement, Tetreau said Hiller had "offered" to resign, and will be leaving the job he has held the last 13 years as of Sept. 15.
Hiller also "has offered to assist the town with financial matters by serving as manager of financial services" through next June 30, Tetreau said in his statement. Robert Mayer, Tetreau's chief of staff, will be the acting chief fiscal officer after Hiller leaves in September, in addition to his current duties, the first selectman said.
After the announcement, Hiller said only, "It is what it is." His staff, buoyed that morning by the news of his return, had put up posters welcoming him back. The mood soon turned somber, however, and one employee called the news of the resignation "devastating."
At Wednesday's Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Kevin Kiley asked Tetreau for an update on Hiller. Tetreau said other than the press release that was sent out earlier that day he had no further comment.
Kiley also asked if there is any signed agreement with Hiller as to the details of resignation, including his compensation. Tetreau said there was and that those documents would be made public Thursday morning prior to his leaving on vacation.
According to those documents, Hiller will no longer be the town's fiscal officer, nor the clerk of the Boad of Finance, as of Sept. 15. His salary will remain at $134,591 on an annual basis through Dec. 31. From Jan. 1 through June 30, 2013, his salary will be reduced to $110,000 on an annual basis. If he gets another job in the public sector, the town will pay him the difference between his salary for the new position and $134,591 until June 30.
On July 1, 2013, Hiller will be paid for 60 days of unused vacation and 13 weeks of severance. His pension benefit will be based on a salary of $155,600.
As for his job as manager of financial services, the agreement states Hiller "shall assist with the performance of his prior duties as directed by the first selectman or his designee," and will work a minimum of two days per week. He will not be eligible for paid sick days or vacation leave, personal leave or paid holidays.
Finance board Chairman Thomas Flynn said at Wednesday's selectmen meeting he has received no information about what led to Hiller's resignation, nor his being put on administrative leave.
"I'm saddened by his leaving," Flynn said. "I will miss him both professionally and personally, and the town owes him a huge thank you for his 31 years of service."
Flynn said he wished the matter had been handled in a "more transparent way."
Hiller's absence had been the source of growing speculation among local officials over the last two weeks, when sources told the Fairfield Citizen that he had been place on administrative leave for unspecified reasons. Tetreau, questioned by members of the Representative Town Meeting and Board of Finance, refused to comment publicly, citing the confidential nature of personnel issues.
Mirylees also refused to comment, although she disputed sources' characterization that she had escorted Hiller from his town office, as did Hiller. "I was not led out from the building," he said.
The Republican Town Committee had planned a discussion of the Hiller issue at its Monday meeting, though it is unclear with his decision to resign if that forum will take place.
An 18-year veteran of the Board of Finance, Hiller was hired as the town's fiscal office more than 12 years ago by then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto. He also serves as the finance board's clerk, an appointment made by that board under the charter. As of now, Hiller, a registered Republican, is still the clerk of the finance panel, although he did not attend last week's meeting of the board. He receives an annual stiped of $3,000 for the position as clerk.
The town "is very fortunate to have had such a dedicated and hard working CFO who always had the best interests of the town at hand," Tetreau said in his statement. "Under Mr. Hiller's fiscal leadership, Fairfield maintained the coveted AAA rating from leading national rating agencies. Mr. Hiller's financial experience helped deliver a clean audit of the Town's balance sheet at the end of every year.
"I thank Mr. Hiller for all of his positive contributions to the town and to our residents," Tetreau added.
Tetreau touted Mayer's experience as a CPA and as a former CEO and director of Health America, and former CFO and director of Sierra Health Services. According to the California Board of Accountancy, Mayer's CPA license expired on July 31. His resume indicates he worked at Health America, from 1997 to 1998. He was at Sierra Health Services from 1989 to 1994. Since 2001 he has been the owner of RAM Financial, which provides "entrepreneurial activities, financial and business consulting and tax preparation services," according to his resume.
Mayer is paid $91,823 for his position as Tetreau's chief of staff.