State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) today urged the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission to investigate the Elizabeth Board of Education to demonstrate, in Sweeney’s words, that the state will not condone any political activity that threatens the delivery or education or the integrity of teachers.
“I would like to bring to your attention a matter of concern involving the unlawful solicitation of campaign contributions from employees of the Elizabeth Board of Education (‘Board of Education’),” wrote to Executive Director Jeffrey Brindle. “I believe the seriousness of this allegation requires an immediate investigation and, if warranted, sanctions to punish all misconduct.”
“Several individuals with close ties to the Board of Education have allegedly targeted school employees to donate to political causes. Significantly, these solicitations occurred on school property in violation of State law. It is believed that a number of individuals, including Annie Rooney, Pablo Muñoz, and Olga Fajardo, used public resources to engage in political fundraising and actually approached school employees at work to buy or sell tickets to campaign-related events. There is some indication that these fundraising tactics involved coercion. In addition, Rafael Fajardo, Jerome Dunn, Carlos Cedeño and Tony Monterio allegedly authorized or supported Rooney, Muñoz and Fajardo’s political activity. I believe an investigation would identify others who were involved in this campaign finance scheme or facilitated this reprehensible conduct.”
Sounds good – although ELEC probably isn’t the branch of government that should investigate this, as it may be a criminal matter.
Be that as it may, I’d like to bring something to the Senator’s attention: Rafael Fajardo, in addition to being the former President of the Elizabeth Board of Education, is currently a member of the New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force. Chris Christie likely appointed him just to annoy Fajardo’s political rival, Sen. Ray Lesniak:
“It’s remarkable that someone found guilty by the courts of using over $88,000 of taxpayer dollars for political ends would be given this kind of authority,” Lesniak told PolitickerNJ.com, referring to a glossy pamphlet prepared by Fajardo and the Board of Education.
“Obviously, it’s the governor’s call, but he ought to take a second look at Fajardo’s actions when he was on the Board of Education,” added the veteran senator. “He lost the case in three venues: the Department of Education, the administrative office of courts and the appelate division: three independent bodies. He illegally spent education dollars. If that’s not a disqualification, I don’t know what it is.”
Remarkable indeed. If Steve Sweeney would like to get himself back in the good graces of teachers, he could start by calling for Fajardo’s removal from the Task Force. He never should have been a part of it in the first place, and he certainly shouldn’t be on it now.