BOE Considering Plan to 'Mediate, Not Investigate' Unnamed Member
School board member Michael Strumolo, thinking he was the target of a possible ethics probe, gave the public a look into secret BOE talks.
Those wondering why the Parsippany Board of Education opted to spend up to $5,000 to hire former state Supreme Court justice Gary Stein for some unnamed investigative purpose finally got some answers last Thursday night.
At the school board's meeting at Knollwood School last week, member Michael Strumolo, suspecting he was the rumored probe's focus, made a move to bring the matter into the open.
When President Frank Calabria asked the board to approve the minutes of its Sept. 13 closed session, Strumolo asked to read a portion of the minutes into the public record.
It was unclear whether permission to do so was granted, but Strumolo moved ahead, recounting the board's private meeting with Justice Stein and his son, attorney Michael Stein, a partner in their law firm Pashman Stein.
"Justice Stein and attorney Stein were advised of the board's intention to conduct an investigation into the conduct of one of its members," he read. "A discussion ensued among all present, and Justice Stein suggested that he and his son act as mediators and meet individually with board members to help bring the board together.
"It was noted that the board decided to mediate rather than investigate. A new resolution would be required."
Calabria said he was not aware that this was what Strumolo wanted to read into the record.
"We have not concluded that yet," he said, adding that it was inappropriate for the unresolved matter to be discussed publicly. "Since it's now out in public, I think that's enough for people to know" the status of any alleged move to investigate the still officially unnamed member.
During the meeting's public comment portion, resident Pat Petaccia addressed the controversy.
"So you changed your minds about Stein? No investigate, but mediate?" she asked. "It's ridiculous to spend money to get people to work together. You're grownups. Stop this piddly crap."
Strumolo kicked up a little more dirt later in the meeting.
Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz's report included a mention of the upcoming New Jersey School Board Association conference, which takes place in Atlantic City in late October. The cost per board member for the conference is $600, which would be paid for by the school district. Among those on the list to attend is member Deborah Orme, who ended her re-election campaign, meaning that she will leave the board when her term expires after the November election.
Strumolo interjected a thought into the discussion regarding the travel expenses.
"May I ask why someone who chose not to run for re-election is going at the expense of the taxpayers?" he inquired.
President Calabria replied, saying that until the end of Orme's term of office, she was still a member of the board and had the right to attend the conference to "learn and gain insights."
Orme offered a thought of her own on the matter.
"I actually had considered not attending the conference this year, but then decided that I would attend," she said, addressing Strumolo directly. "I remember about nine months ago, you and I had a discussion, Mike, about how important I thought convention was. You had shared with us in a written letter to the governor that you thought the convention was a waste of taxpayer dollars.
"I notice you are attending this year."
Orme stated that her intention was to gain knowledge to share with the board and with the community. She reiterated that she would go to the gathering—and announced she would pay for her own travel costs.