UPDATED: Hudson Reporter Drops a Bombshell

ADDING: See the comments: iwood adds some information that makes this story seem a bit less nefarious than originally reported.

The questions remain: did this meeting take place? Who was there? What was discussed given the title of the email?

I am in no position to confirm this story from the Hudson Reporter. But if it is true, it is explosive:

JERSEY CITY – The same week that Ward E City Councilman (and future mayoral contender) Steven Fulop had to explain more than $18,000 in campaign donations from a law firm with ties to Spectra Energy, an e-mail was leaked from the 2013 mayoral candidate’s personal gmail account in which he invites an inner circle of school board members to what appears to be a secret meeting.

Sent under the subject heading “Cerf meeting,” the May 2, 2011 e-mail from Fulop reads: “Please keep in confidence as always. We are meeting at 274 Arlington Ave. tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6 p.m. See you then.”

According to one source, 274 Arlington Ave. was a vacant residential property at the time of the meeting. Chris Cerf is the acting commissioner of education for the state of New Jersey.

The e-mail was sent to Sterling Waterman, who at the time was president of the Jersey City Board of Education; Carol Lester, vice-president at the time of the meeting; Carol Harrison-Arnold and Marvin Adames, who had been elected to the board just days earlier, on April 27 – but had not been sworn in yet; Ellen Simon, founder of Parents for Progress; and Shelley Skinner, deputy director of Better Education for Kids, a school choice advocacy group. Fulop’s e-mail was also sent to Leda Duif Shumbris, Mohamed Akil, and Tine Pahl.

The timing of the e-mail and Arlington Avenue meeting are significant as they came just one week after Fulop-backed candidates won control of the Board of Education. These events also took place at a time when the Board of Education was gearing up to oust Dr. Charles Epps as the superintendent of schools and conduct a national search for his successor.

School board members Suzanne Mack, Angel Valentin, and Sean Connors were not invited to the meeting.

If Cerf did indeed meet with only some members of the JCBOE in secret, it is highly unethical. I can’t speak to the legality, but the Sunshine Laws seem to be very clear about not allowing this sort of meeting.

This is an serious charge, especially since the board just hired a new superintendent who, like Cerf, is a graduate of the Broad Superintendent’s Academy, the controversial California group funded by Eli Broad.

We’ll be watching this very carefully.

Comments (9)

  1. ken bank

    Will Democrats who control the Legislature have the guts to investigate bringing ethics charges against Cerf? Will ethics charges against school board members be filed as well?

    I know in my school district if some school board members held a secret meeting with the superintendent while other school board members were excluded there would be hell to pay.

  2. iwood

    I don’t know if it’s a serious violation since there doesn’t seem to be a quorum.  If elected officials want to get together to discuss issues they should be allowed to.  It also doesn’t indicate that Cerf attended the meeting, but may have been the topic of the meeting.

    Regarding Cerf, however, there’s this from June 1:

    While Fulop did say in an earlier JCI interview he generally supports measures Cerf and Gov. Chris Christie want implemented in the district, he denied he is working in concert with Cerf to pressure trustees on picking a particular person.

    “I haven’t even spoken to Chris Cerf in nine or 10 months,” he said. Cerf’s spokesman, Justin Barra, has assured JCI the choice is strictly a local matter.

    The board member conceded certain candidates have become known prematurely, not only to Fulop but groups like the SEOC. “I think someone inside the district is improperly leaking names and it’s unfortunate,” the trustee said.

  3. Jersey Jazzman (Post author)

    However, if this is true, it’s four out of seven members of the BOE. Don’t know if that’s a quorum but it’s enough to get a majority on a vote.

    It is possible Cerf wasn’t there, but it’s highly suspicious that his name is in the title.

    This needs investigating.

  4. iwood

    As of 2008 it was the home of Richard Moon who held house parties for Barack Obama’s primary at that address and was the Hudson County co-chair in 2008.

    The company he worked for (did IT for higher ed companies) was merged and moved to VA earlier this year, and Moon opened up his own shop called Civic Karma that has a single page website with little or no content.

    According to the Hudson Reporter Moon — same paper as this story — is working on Fulup’s Mayoral campaign, so this indicates to me that it was either not a vacant property or Moon offered up his house to Fulup.

    This took about ten minutes of Google and LinkedIn research, but the Hudson Reporter included the “vacant residential property” innuendo from an unnamed “source” anyway. Sloppy reporting made this sound more nefarious than it likely is.


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