Parsippany Board of Education member Michael Strumolo, making strong allegations against Superintendent LeRoy Seitz, sent a request to Gov. Chris Christie Thursday asking him to hold a Town Hall meeting in the township to address a host of his complaints regarding the board.
The complaints start with Strumolo's charge that he experienced harassment, threats and intimidation at the hands of "an Ex-Officio member of the board who in the past has tried to exact retribution for my refusal to vote for his contract."
The board member is referring to Seitz, who is the only ex-officio member of the board, and who spent more than a year at odds with Strumolo and with Christie because of Seitz's contract negotiations.
The dispute was about money: Christie imposed a cap on superintendent salaries and publicly assailed Seitz and the Parsippany BOE in 2011 because the contract renegotiated in November 2010 did not comply with that cap.
The , calling him "the poster boy of greed."
After a year of back-and-forth and , the board produced a new contract that complied with the Christie cap and . Seitz filed suit against the board and the state for breach of contract; the BOE countersued for . The hearing is expected to begin in September.
Strumolo wrote to the governor that subsequent alleged retaliation against him by the "ex-officio member" has made his ability to fulfill his role as school board member "extremely difficult if not impossible at times."
The BOE member then related a number of questions that appear to allege potentially improper activities by unnamed school board colleagues. Among them:
- Can multiple members of the board who have numerous family members working within the district vote on issues posed by an ex-officio member who has control either real or implied over his or her family members?
- Can an ex officio member be held personally accountable if he wields his authority with malice and forethought to obtain retribution?
- Can an ex-officio member of a board manipulate it with members who are possibly fearful of his retribution [toward] their family members?
- Can a member of the board who willfully did not fill out the required background disclosure form accurately serve on the board?
- Can members of the board, employed by other school systems, work with an ex-officio member who also works in that system? Or does this create an atmosphere of cronyism?
- Can an ex-officio member who is out of touch with the reality of the taxpayers trying to survive in this economy continue to propose and expend funds by manipulating projects through threats and innuendos?
Patch asked Strumolo about what he hoped to accomplish by sending his requests and allegations to the governor, especially given the nearness of the start of the new school year.
"I believe people in Parsippany sent me there to be their voice, to ask the tough questions and to watch their tax dollars," he said. "The superintendent is continually interfering with my performance of my constitutional and statutory duties by threatening me with ethics charges, acting like an attorney and telling me I am violating the law when we have a board attorney who is very competent."
Strumolo said these alleged threats, about which he would not elaborate, have come "multiple times" when the board is in closed session.
His action comes after an Aug. 1 closed session of the board. Strumolo stormed out of the meeting and was not present when the board voted to spend up to $5,000 to hire attorney Gary Stein of the Pashman Stein firm in Hackensack to handle unspecified litigation.
In 2011, Stein, a former state Supreme Court associate justice, was hired by the Elizabeth Public Schools to probe alleged corruption in that district's school lunch program.
Board President Frank Calabria is away on vacation could not be reached for comment.
Seitz has been informed of Strumolo reaching out to the governor, but has declined to comment.
Christie's office said he is out of town and unavailable for comment.