School Board Gang of 4: Manipulation, lies, and now… the cover-up

Manipulation and lies…

They manipulated Clinton Township taxpayers out of $247,310 in tax relief. They refused to schedule a Board of Education (BOE) meeting before they ran out the clock at 4:00 pm July 19.

All the while, they lied about what they were doing. So this year, Clinton Township taxpayers will pay a quarter-million more in property taxes than they would have had to.

Now, Clinton Townshp BOE president Jim Dincuff and his Gang of 4 — BOE member Mark Kaplan, board secretary Patricia Leonhardt, and superintendent Kevin Carroll — are lying again to cover up this tax-relief heist.

“In an interview, Dincuff said, ‘I sincerely believe that the board acted in good faith, and we tried to be very transparent.'”

Hunterdon County Democrat, August 18, 2011

It is no technicality that the board acts only in public meetings — it may not “act,” and no one may “act” on the BOE’s behalf, without a public meeting. There was no public BOE meeting during the events Dincuff is referring to in his interview.

Mr. Dincuff is demonstrating corrupt governance and attempting after-the-fact to cover up his failure to conduct BOE business properly and transparently. During this episode, the board did not act. Rather, Dincuff and a select group of school officials improperly claimed to act as the BOE and misled the public and other public officials about public funds.

“School district officials on Tuesday said they were correct in their decision not to schedule a special meeting because there was too little time to publish advance notice of the meeting.” [emphasis added]

Hunterdon County Democrat, August 18, 2011

That’s a lie.

…More lies and a cover-up

The BOE’s Bylaws (p. 37) clearly state that only 48 hours’ notice is required for a special meeting. In fact, the Bylaws permit exactly the kind of meeting that board members Marc Freda, Michelle Sullivan, and Kevin Sturges requested when they learned about the tax-relief aid.

“Upon the affirmative vote of three-quarters of the members present, the Board may meet in the absence of adequate notice, provided that discussion and action is limited to specific and unforeseen or unforeseeable matters of such urgency and importance that delay for the provision of notice would be likely to result in substantial harm to the public interest and that notice is given as soon as possible after the call of the meeting in accordance with the provisions of law and this bylaw.”

The “school district officials” lied once again — to the Democrat. The BOE could and should have held a meeting any time between the announcement of the special aid and the deadline to use it. Didin’t Dincuff consider the loss of an immediate quarter-million dollars of tax relief to financially-strapped residents of Clinton Township a “substantial harm to the public interest?”

But the Democrat didn’t bother to check the facts, which are readily available on the BOE’s website. The Democrat has aided the Gang of 4 to skirt the truth.

(According to internal BOE documents obtained under the Open Public Records Act, Freda and Sullivan were the only board members on record demanding that the monies be returned to taxpayers before the July 19 deadline.)

Keep lying, keep covering up

This matter has escalated from a manipulation and lies to a desperate cover-up. It is clear that board secretary Leonhardt’s job may be on the line — her repeated, misleading statements that “the BOE decided” are amplified by her statement that:

…this wasn’t in any way an oversight, it was a decision…”

Why else would Dincuff, a career school administrator who spent many years as a New Jersey school principal, disgrace himself and risk getting busted for lying about the BOE’s meeting policy? Dincuff was interviewed by the Democrat, which reported:

“About how Leonhardt characterized who actually made the decision not to call a special meeting, Dincuff said, it would have probably been better if she had clarified that.”

‘If she misspoke, it definitely wasn’t intentional,’ Dincuff said.”

Other documents suggest strongly that Dincuff was covering up for Leonhardt.

Who is accountable?

The BOE could have met any time between July 13 and 4:00 pm July 19, the deadline to act. Did Leonhardt also “misspeak” when, she wrote to board members Sullivan and Kaplan:

“Ability to use [the funds] for the year already in progress has passed…”

Another lie.

Board secretary Leonhardt wrote that e-mail to advise board members four and a half hours before the deadline had passed to take action.

“It definitely wasn’t intentional.”

How many lies must Leonhardt tell in writing and on the public record before her actions require an investigation by the Department of Education? She is a certified board secretary and school administrator earning top dollar. How many lies must the Gang of 4 tell before they are investigated?

Who is accountable?

According to superintendent Kevin Carroll, a lame-duck manager with no contract, the Gang of 4 is already hard at work on the campaign to convince voters to approve next year’s school budget.

Who stood up for taxpayers? 3 school board members who stood up — and 1 who fought.

(Want to see all the “school aid” received by the district for 2011-2012? The quarter mil is just a small part of it. Click here.)


This entry was posted in Municipal, Schools, State, Taxes. Bookmark the permalink.