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Mancuso on FOD: 'There Is No Conflict of Interest'

Former board president and current member shares his thoughts on controversies surrounding the BOE.

member Anthony Mancuso says accusations regarding board members and alleged conflicts of interest regarding the controversial Fields of Dreams proposal are "silly."

Emails relating to and transcripts of Recreation Advisory Committee meetings reveal that long before the public heard of a plan to use Open Space Trust Fund dollars to finance the installation of artificial turf fields and other improvements at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools, the plan was floated by then-BOE President Mancuso and Superintendent LeRoy Seitz.

Mancuso said those revelations are accurate, but do not tell the entire story.

"It has been pointed out that I met with two members of the town's recreation committee. Yes, I did, along with Dr. Seitz," he said. "It lasted all of 20 minutes."

According to Mancuso, he and Seitz were asked whether the school board would be interested if the township offered artificial turf fields to the district's high schools as "a gift."

"We said, of course we would, but do not come back to the board until you have gotten all the town side of this issue straight," he said. "Well, that did not happen."

Mancuso said the controversy really does not involve the Board of Education.

"The board can not control what happens outside the board by other groups," he insisted. "Until the board has been presented with plans, and the town works out the funding issue and permits and so forth, there is nothing for [us] to consider."

Mancuso said board members are as much "in the dark" about the project and funding plans as residents at this point.

"As for me, I have never said to anyone I was for this project," he said. "I will vote when the time comes, depending on what is presented, [based] on what I feel is best for the board and the students. That is who I am elected to represent."

As far as alleged conflicts of interest, Mancuso said he does not see any.

"[Board Vice President Frank] Neglia has been on the recreation committee ... for many years. He also has been the BOD liaison on the Shared Services Committee for years," he said. "None of this is hidden information and he is in those positions to facilitate issues like this between the town and the board."

Mancuso added that Neglia was appointed to the position, and long before the Fields of Dreams proposal was envisioned.

Neglia is also president of the .

"Should I be conflicted out because pee-wee [football], or [fellow BOE member Michael] Strumolo because his son [plays] in a youth group?" he said. "We all live in this town and if you are active or have children, chances are you have been connected somehow to one of the parties involved.

"There is no conflict of interest. No one here is making money off this or getting business from this," he asserted. "This is elected officials doing the jobs they were assigned to do."

Meanwhile, residents against Mayor James Barberio, the Township Council's respective president and vice president, Brian Stanton and Vincent Ferrara, and  member Sharif Shamsudin, who is the chairman of the school board's Sports Committee.

It is rumored that other charges are forthcoming. A charge is merely that, and does not indicate guilt.

On other BOE matters, Mancuso said he sees positive things in terms of how members are getting along.

"I don’t think necessarily did anything to bring the board closer, but I do see some of the newer members being more willing to work and listen with some of the older ones," he said. "Some of us have gotten past trust issues and some have not."

Mancuso is an unabashed cheerleader for the .

"This is a great budget, and don’t let others tell you different," he said. "It keeps all our educational programs, athletic programs and extracurricular programs intact. In addition, we don’t need to make any employee cuts. Plus, we are within the cap limitations.

"That is amazing,"Mancuso continued. "Watch how many other districts struggle to accomplish what we have."

He added that residents have to understand that while the budget does include some financial "wiggle room," he said the board needs to have the ability to handle unforeseen issues that arise. He pointed to employee negotiations and always variable heating costs as examples.

"In the end, if funds are left over, [they are] returned or rolled over, so we get less the next year," he explained. "A board can not run in the red; that is the law."

Mancuso also defended the embattled Seitz.

"Dr. Seitz is doing what the board has asked him to do, concentrating on the positive aspects of our district and getting the good word out and I think he is doing a great job of it," he said. "This was why [current President Frank] Calabria created the [board's] Communications Committee.

"We need to remind people [that] the students are the focus, and they are out there making us proud."

Julia Peterson February 27, 2012 at 12:35 PM
That $4.5 milliion "gift" comes from tax dollars dedicated to other purposes which are outlined in the current Open Space plan adopted by the Town Council last April 4th. The voters had a say in the apportioning of those monies in 2006. They are not the town administration's to "gift" to the BOE. BOE budget already gets 63% of each tax dollar.
Bob Crawford February 27, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Mr. Mancuso Let's try to be a bit more forthcoming and share a couple of additional facts. With regard to the statement that you are as much "in the dark" as the public about the project and the funding of the FOD, let's not forget the closed BOE meeting that was held in December with the full Board, the Mayor and the Town Attorney at which the FOD was discussed. Some type of light must have been shed on FOD at that meeting because on December 19th, the Board's attorney sent a letter to the NJ Department of Education stating that the Board was interested in negotiating with the Township to attempt to establish mutually acceptable terms and conditions relating to the FOD proposal. Hopefully when you voted to send that letter you weren't still "in the dark" And, let's not forget that based on the documents that were secured via an OPRA request that BOE Vice President Frank Neglia was designated, by the FOD Committee, as the Committee's Board of Education representative and for many months failed to report back to the full Board about the discussions held between the Mayor and the FOD proponents about the high school fields and tracks. As for the budget, hopefully you will be able to get the Superintendent to tell you and the public what he believes the conditions of the high school fields and tracks truly are so the Board can fulfill its responsibility to fund required improvements so that our children have access to functional and safe athletic facilities.
Kristen Ritter February 27, 2012 at 02:57 PM
According to Mancuso, he and Seitz were asked whether the school board would be interested if the township offered artificial turf fields to the district's high schools as "a gift." I just want to know who used that language. Was it a private citizen? Or, did someone from the township say that? Please shed some light?
Michael February 27, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Mr Mancuso should be very clear in the fact that in "return" for this gift, the school would give the city of Parsippany 51% ownership of the land this "gift of a field"" would sit upon. Therefore, the school would now own only 49% of what was previously their land. In addition, Mr. Mancuso fails to state that the two members of the rec department he mentions were not acting on behalf of the rec department. Rather, Mr. Neglia and the other person had not yet even mentioned this project to the Parsippany Rec Dept. In fact, Neglia was in charge of selling the idea to the BOE and plans were being formed to present it to the P&R department to try and gain their support, yet none of this had taken place when they met with Mancuso and Dr. Seitz.
Chris February 27, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I think this is all part of a master plan of the Free Masons and their secret society. If you look hard enough throughout Parsippany you can find the hidden clues that will reveal the latitude and longitude of each High School field. It is a cipher code so you have to find the key. Oh...and Jimmy Hoffa is actually still alive. Please, stop trying to dig things up that just aren't there. People get ideas and bring them to people who can act on them. This has been in open discussions for over three months now. Everything has been said and repeated over and over again, and over and over and over again, and over and over and over again..sorry for the redundancy.
Hank Heller February 27, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Mr. Mancuso, I have had plenty of negative things to say about your BOE management and administration. I feel it is important to tell you that I am respectful of your comments in the article above. Speaking publicly so the people of Parsippany can understand at least, what your thinking and intent is/was is hugely important in earning the respect and trust of the the public. This is something we need much more of in Parsippany, from all levels of public service. I commend you for coming forth and explaining plainly the thought process that was used. I still think it is very wrong for the BOE to give up 51% of the control of the sports fields and I think it is wrong for the Mayor to consider using Open Space TRUST Funds to finance a medium term project (turf fields) with long term funds (15 year bonds). But, I and many other voters in Parsippany appreciate your comments.
Adam Gragnani February 27, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Mr. Mancuso, Here is my question to you and the board. Why did the BOE allow the fields to get into such horrible conditions? The BOE management is the one that is responsible to insure that improvements to functional and safe athletic facilities are available to the students. What monies were allocated to accomplish this? It is very clear that BOE failed to provide our students with safe facilities. And by the way, much of this failure occured under your watch as Board President.
Kristen Ritter February 27, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I have an additional question. If the school budget is set to pass in the coming days...is there any allocated money for the field maintenance? We heard about funds that exist...and we heard about additional state aid, but none of that was mentioned in the context of doing any improvements to the fields. I fear if nothing is done in this budget...and the town bailout package (aka FOD) can't proceed, than the fields will be in disrepair for another year...
Jennifer McNulty February 27, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Also remember that the only fields that would change are the two football fields. All the complaints about the soccer fields, the field hockey area and how unsafe and dangerous they are is not addressed at all. The FOD project may be a solution for games but if these fields are so unsafe and embarrassing what is the plan to fix them?
VietNam Vet March 06, 2012 at 08:54 AM
Why doesn't the school board pay for this themselves because his is a school issue? The board has neglected these fields for quite some time, they belong to the schools let them pay for this, the tax payers are getting a little tired of funding all your scemes you come up with. The board has a $5 million dollar surplus from last year, so don't say you don't have the money, because we are not stupid. You caused the problems now pay for them with the surplus because we aren't going to fund something like this again and again over the years. When this thing is of no use, we'll still be paying for it and then your going to tack another refurbishing of the fields on us again, we'll never get to stop paying for this joke.

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