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Thursday, March 17, 2016

(Board of Ed) Wilma 'walk-on' fails to meet common standards

Don't bother with the details, just make it happen!...

A funny thing happened at the end of the Plainfield Board of Ed's March 1, 2016 meeting, when a "walk-on" resolution was added to the agenda without prior notice or discussion and passed by a vote of 6-3.

I had left the meeting by this time, so I OPRA-ed the resolution, which is reproduced below --

I.          Professional Services

The Superintendent of Schools recommends and moved by Mr. Rutherford and seconded by Mrs. Campbell for adoption of the following:


WHEREAS, statements have been made by individuals accusing the Board of engaging in conduct that is either illegal or a violation of the School Ethics Law, and,

WHEREAS, the Board vehemently denies the Board as a whole or that individual members have engaged in illegal conduct or conduct in violation of the School Ethics law; and

WHEREAS the Board believes it is necessary to hire special counsel to represent it to contest the wrongful accusations, now therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Plainfield Board of Education authorizes the hire of a Special Counsel to take the steps necessary to contest allegations of illegal conduct or violations of the School Ethics Law at a rate of $150.00 per/hour.

The motion passed on a roll-call vote with Mr. Bellamy, Mr. Campbell, Mrs. Campbell, Mr. Moore, Mr. Rutherford and Mr. Wyatt in favor.  Mrs. Clarke, Mrs. Jeffers and Mrs. Morgan were opposed.
I am told by a Board member that there was no prior discussion of the matter by the Board of Ed and that Board member David Rutherford moved the resolution, reading from a hastily composed hand-written motion on a sheet of yellow legal paper.

The resolution appears to be in response to a post in Plainfield Today (see here), citing a Ledger story on a scheme by a supplier (Bayway Lumber, of Linden) in which several agencies --including the Plainfield school district -- were defrauded. The question posed in my post was whether any employee(s) or Board members were aware of the fraud.

The walk-on resolution completely sidesteps the issue of whether and when any Board member knew of the fraud, and says instead "statements have been made ... accusing the Board of engaging in conduct that is illegal ..."

Not so. Read my post.

So, instead of the Board looking into the matter, it lawyers up, based on a misrepresentation of what I wrote.

Not only that, the resolution deviates from standard practice in three regards --

  • No attorney is named in the motion, though required;

  • No cap is mentioned on the amount to be expended; and

  • No date certain is given beyond which the services provided would need to be renewed by the Board if needed.
Public bodies, spending the taxpayers money, simply do not give a blank check to anyone to spend unlimited funds on services by unnamed individuals for an unspecified amount of time.

Such sloppiness does not speak well of the Board's attorney, who was sitting on the stage at the time the motion was made and passed, or of the Board's president, who should know the conditions the expenditure of monies demand.

Time to tighten up, folks.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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