The school board blocked a fourth attempt Thursday night to call for a vote to rescind the z after advice from the board attorney that another motion would have been against Robert's Rules of Order.
If the board doesn't rescind,from the district because Seitz's contract exceeds Christie's $175,000 salary cap for school administrators in districts the size of Parsippany.
The acting board attorney, Margaret Miller, who is filling in for regular board attorney Mark Tabakian, told the board it was against Robert's Rules, which govern how meetings are conducted, to vote on a contract that's already been executed.
After board member Robert Crawford called for a vote on whether to rescind, Board President Anthony Mancuso ruled him out of order for making the . A second vote, seconded by Michael Strumolo, was taken to determine whether the board should override Mancuso's authority to squelch a vote on the contract.
"Stop interfering with the vote,'' he told Mancuso. "We're entitled to vote.''
That vote was defeated 5-4. Members Andrew Choffo, Anthony Mancuso, Frank Neglia, Deborah Orme and Frank Calabria voted in favor of upholding Mancuso's decision to disallow a vote. Voting against Mancuso were Robert Crawford, Michael Strumolo, who seconded Crawford's motion, Louis Valori and Fran Orthwein.
When pressed by Crawford, Miller said that unless the township had "broken the law'' the state couldn't withhold the entire $2.3 million. But the state could withhold a portion of it if it felt the district was "fiscally imprudent.''
In this case, that would only amount to $30,000 or $40,000, the difference between Christie's cap and Seitz's salary under the contract. The superintendent's contract would reach about $235,000 in five years.
Crawford had been blocked in December from making a motion to rescind the vote after Mancuso ruled him out of order, calling it "dilatory'' since the board had already voted.
Crawford justified the motion by explaining that Christie's reiterated threat of cutting state aid, and a second letter from County Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Serafino, who ordered them to rescind, was enough reason for a vote on whether to reconsider.
"While board members may disagree about whether he had the authority to do this, the risk of it being withed is a real risk. It's a new and previously unknown bit of information,'' Crawford said. " It's incumbent upon the board to let the public know which member is or isn't willing to risk that state aid. It's appropriate for me to be allowed to ask. "
Orthwein questioned Mancuso on his contention that the contract couldn't be discussed, even in terms of voting on whether to vote on rescinding, because it's in litigation. The board has claiming Serafino wrongly negated the contract.
"This has absolutely nothing to dew with the litigation,'' she said. "Why, on our second go-round with the letter [from Serafino], why is this just coming up now? We've been through this two other times and every time the reasoning around this seem to be changing and I don't understand.''
She added, "Why would the county superintendent direct us to rescind a contract if we can't rescind a contracts under Robert's Rules?"
Strumolo then made a motion to call in "special counsel'' to review the opinion of Tabakian, who didn't attend the meeting because he was on vacation, according to Miller. That motion was also defeated 5-4, with Mancuso again breaking the tie.
Orthwein voted against, explaining that she didn't think a special counsel would resolve the issue.
"We based our decision [to approve the contract] because Tabakian allowed us to believe that we had the superintendent's signature, when in fact, we didn't,'' Strumolo said.
The grounds of the board's lawsuit against the state is that Serafino had approved the contract via e-mail and gave the impression that signing it was just a formality.
Strumolo's motion was defeated, but Choffo, who has been at odds with Strumolo and Crawford, sided with them to seek outside counsel.
"I think this issue has been tainted to the point where a third party would be beneficial,'' he said.