Tonight 7pm is the first meeting of the Flemington Borough Council since an explosive meeting – one week ago tonight – of the school board that serves the same town. We’ll know by tonight if there’s reverb from last week, and whether Republican members of the Borough Council, some of whom were leaked confidential info and apparently didn’t report it, have anything to say for themselves. Here’s what’s going on:
School security documents leaked: At last Monday’s Flemington-Raritan School Board meeting, we learned that Board member Alan Brewer (Flemington) sent details of the emergency security plan now being drafted for all the district schools to 10 Republicans active in Flemington politics. Board member Anna Fallon, who confirmed this leak via public records request, demanded Brewer’s resignation. Board member Robin Behn also demanded Brewer resign. And that was echoed during the meeting’s public comments, including from me. I am a Flemington resident and Brewer represents me on that Board.
Why is that a big deal? What Brewer leaked are plans that first responders need immediately in an emergency, like what hallway kids are told to run down to escape if there’s a shooter in the building, or where the hidden cameras are placed. Now that info has been leaked past the confidentiality of school officials. That plan was expensive and months in the making. But what is far worse is the risk to the safety of children and staff that Brewer might have caused.
Who did Al Brewer leak to: Erica Edwards (Flemington mayor), Brian Swingle, John Gorman, Phil Greiner and Phil Velella (the Republicans on Flemington Borough Council), Bill Reed (Republican Party municipal chair), Marcia Karrow (former state senator), Bob Hauck (former Flemington councilman), Mary Melfi (Hunterdon Clerk) and Elaine Gorman (Councilman Gorman’s wife, who represents her voting district to the Republican Party).
My question to the 10 Republican he leaked to: Why didn’t you immediately report this breach to the Board?
My questions to Brewer: Why would you do this? Doesn’t it occur to you that this info is eyes-only for the people who must respond and save lives when there’s a threat? And why are you leaking confidential school safety information to Republican operatives?
What are the numbers? This is the security plan for 6 schools, comprising grades kindergarten through 8th grade; 3,500 kids, 400-plus staff, plus visitors. The plans were leaked by Brewer in 3 emails to 10 fellow Republicans, beginning in March 2014.
Did he share this confidential info with them in their official capacity? School Board President Bruce Davidson says no, and the fact that Brewer leaked only to Republicans raises questions about whether Brewer is acting in the best interests of the students in the board’s charge, or as a political operative. The info was, Davidson says, clearly eyes-only. There was never a board vote to give out the info to these Republicans and Brewer acted improperly and on his own.
But wait – you said there was an OPRA request: Right. That OPRA request (by Board member Anna Fallon) is the only way anybody found out Brewer leaked confidential info. It’s not the security plan that was exposed by OPRA, just the fact Brewer sent it around. Brewer never told the Board he did that.
Could anybody get the plan through OPRA? Nope. If any of those 10 Republicans, or anyone else, tried to get the plan by OPRA, they’d hit a brick wall; the docs are exempt most likely for these reasons: docs still in deliberation (like an emergency plan still being worked on) are not OPRAable, and the security nature of the document (i.e. may put people in jeopardy if contents are revealed) may also make it exempt.
What will happen with Brewer? He was immediately removed as liaison to Flemington (Board member Sandy Borucki was immediately appointed). Two members have called for his resignation; there may be more and there may be calls from the public, maybe even tonight in Flemington.
Brewer says he’s innocent: He says he only shared the info with “stakeholders,” offering a pretty thin explanation of why he chose who he did, and who he left off leaking to (both Democrats on Council)** Without question, the greatest malfeasance is a Board member going rogue and leaking an emergency preparedness plan to anyone, potentially risking the lives of young students and the adults responsible for them. His choice of who to leak to is secondary; choosing to leak to local GOP operatives seems to suggest more about his motives and questionable allegiances.
Mr. Brewer should resign.
** I live with Flemington Councilman Joey Novick, who attended the School Board meeting with me, learning a week ago that Brewer did this. Brewer sent no confidential info to Joey or to the other Democrat on Council, Dorothy Fine.