The Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, a group charged with luring new businesses to town, had gone for nearly a year without an executive director at the time it hired Anna Maria Villa for that post in August 2009.
Now, it’s without an executive director once again, as the IDA board voted 4 to 1 Monday to terminate Ms. Villa’s employment.
The move came at a time when Ms. Villa had just left for a vacation in Italy.
“We decided to terminate the independent consultant agreement that we had with her and we’re going in another direction, which is to hire a full-time person,” said IDA chair Kathy Wojciechowski.
Ms. Villa, she said, was working as a consultant to the IDA, rather than as an employee. The move, she said, “was not about Anna.”
Though the lone dissenting vote said otherwise.
“They said she wasn’t doing her job. I thought she was,” IDA member Paul Thompson said Tuesday. “I thought she was doing a good job.”
Mr. Thompson cast the only vote against terminating Ms. Villa, with IDA members Ms. Wojciechowski, Angela DeVito, Lou Kalogeras and Sean McCabe voting to fire her.
Mr. Thompson said he also disagreed with firing someone before a replacement is in place, and with firing her while she was away.
Ms. Wojciechowski said the IDA is publishing advertisements for that position in the News-Review and other publications that outline very specific job descriptions for the position.
“We hope to get a good pool of candidates,” she said, adding that the IDA hopes to hire someone as soon as possible, at a salary of $75,000.
Ms. Villa ran a marketing and public relations firm prior to taking the IDA post. As IDA executive director, her job was to act as the so-called frontman in attracting businesses here and helping existing businesses expand. Her position is the IDA’s only salaried position, which is funded through fees paid by companies the agency helps.
The IDA offers a number of tax breaks and other incentives to businesses considering locating within the ID zone.
Since Ms. Villa took the IDA post, that board had granted full 10-year tax abatements to two downtown projects, the Atlantis Marine World hotel on East Main Street and the Summerwind apartments on Peconic Avenue. It also granted partial tax abatements to the Bowl 58 project on Main Road, the Hotel Indigo renovation on West Main Street, EBS Building Systems’ new Calverton facility and Dark Horse Restaurant in downtown Riverhead.
Some Town Board members were critical of the decision to grant tax abatements to Bowl 58, saying it’s not in an area to which the town is trying to lure businesses. That site has subsequently been foreclosed on by the Bank of Smithtown and Bowl 58 has never opened.
Ms. Villa had been involved in some public arguments with Ms. Wojciechowski and Ms. DeVito over the choice of bonding counsel the IDA employed.
Ms. Villa did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.