Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Prosecutor needs to probe Board of Ed lawyer mess


Not only did Board of Ed president Wilma Campbell NOT disclose
a conflict of interest, she made the motion to hire lawyers
linked to her husband's firm.

's Board of Ed is shopping for new attorneys according to a report in today's Ledger (see here). Union County's new Acting Prosecutor Grace Park needs to look into this matter, which stinks to high heaven.

The news comes just week's after Matthew Boxer, New Jersey's state comptroller, issued a report detailing problems with overpayment by public entities for legal services that highlighted the Plainfield district's contract with the West Orange law firm of Pickett and Craig (see the Comptroller's report here).

In my previous posts, I covered --

  • The Board's fight over who to appoint as attorneys, including moves to dismiss the current attorneys and appoint Weiner Lesniak that were thwarted (see here); and

  • The Board's decision on June 22, 2010, supposedly after soliciting proposals, to split the legal business between the prior firm of Hunt Hamlin Ridley and a new firm, Pickett and Craig, with no further mention of Weiner Lesniak (see minutes here; Maria Pellum OPRAed the actual contracts, which can be found online here).
Boxer's report has several shortcomings --
  • First of all, it only takes up the matter after the Board has made its selection;

  • Secondly, it portrays Business Administrator Gary Ottman as if his role was somehow determinative in the attorney selection. As any close observer of the Plainfield school district knows, the Superintendent and the Board call the shots. You can be sure that Wilma Campbell at the least was involved in this matter up to her eyeballs and Superintendent Belin (if not Campbell herself) told Ottman what documents to prepare and how to prepare them;

  • Lastly, Boxer doesn't touch on the question of whether any criminal activity took place in the award of the contracts.
That is where I think the Prosecutor's office should dig in.

Not only were the specifications of the RFP ignored, as Boxer notes, but Wilma Campbell herself made the motion to hire Pickett and Craig, seconded by fellow GrandSlammer Renata Hernandez (see the Board of Ed's June 22, 2010 minutes here, Resolutions P-1 and P-2).

Only after Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green cried foul in a story reported by the Courier's Mark Spivey (see here) and later by the Ledger (see here), did Wilma Campbell acknowledge a prior relationship with Pickett and Craig.

But she asserted they were picked 'on their merits', which she did not detail, and that the firm's prior relationship with her husband's real estate brokerage had no bearing on the matter.

Years ago, when I was serving as the Plainfield Board of Realtors' ethics committee chair, I remember some fellow Realtors® joshing Wilma Campbell's husband John about his running a Century 21 franchise although he owned a large number of income-producing properties and could afford to 'take it easy'. Campbell's response to the good-natured ribbing was that he only kept the office going because his wife Wilma enjoyed selling real estate.

I am sure that the Prosecutor's office would find it interesting to uncover how many of Wilma Campbell's real estate deals were handled on one side or the other by Pickett and Craig.

At the very least, Wilma Campbell should never have made the motion to hire Pickett and Craig as the Board's attorneys, nor voted on the motion. For that she should resign immediately from the Plainfield Board of Ed.

If a Union County Prosecutor's investigation uncovers criminal activity in relation to the awarding of the Pickett and Craig contract, she and the other GrandSlammers (if they are implicated) should face the Slammer.

    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Anonymous said...

    Head of an ethics panel Dan? That's a laugh since your view of ethics goes only so far as it fits with your propaganda.

    sinzig said...

    Bad stuff.

    Anonymous said...

    what a shame

    Anonymous said...

    My opinion is that this dog won't bark. The selection of the board attorney may have violated administrative procedures, but I doubt it is criminal.

    What a prosecutor needs to look into is the matter of overbilling. If the Business Administrator didn't catch the overbilling by the board's lawyers, what other vendors have overbilled and been paid? Now that could be ongoing and criminal.

    Anonymous said...

    If Mrs. Campbell goes down so should ALL of the GrandSlammers! They all knew what Mrs. Campbell knew. They ran as a TEAM they should go down as a TEAM.

    They'rrrrrrrrre OUT!

    Anonymous said...

    Well when they come for her, they need to bring a large enough paddy wagon for Sharon, Dave and anyone else...