MKF and Spiller Offer Statements on Status of Conflict of Interest Case

BY  |  Monday, Jun 01, 2015 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (52)

gavel

The case of MKF v. Sean Spiller, that began back in March, when Montclair Kids First filed its initial formal complaint, continues. On Friday, May 29, Judge Thomas Moore heard from Shavar Jeffries of Lowenstein Sandler, representing Montclair Kids First, and the law firm of Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum, & Friedman, representing Sean Spiller.

Here’s what each side had to say following Friday’s court date:

Without any surprise, as both the township attorney and my personal attorneys have reviewed the matter extensively and determined the claims to be baseless, a judge recently dismissed three of MFK’s claims outright without even hearing them. With only one claim even remaining, once heard, that too will be judged baseless.

While this shadow group hopes to devolve our township discourse into personal attacks, my Council colleagues and the residents I serve know that I remain focused on actual issues impacting our community, such as our success in reducing township debt, increasing funding for early education, additional support for our library, putting more police officers out on the streets with community policing, and unprecedented funding for street and road improvements.

As with all committees that I serve on, I will continue to take a supportive, while fiscally responsible, position on all issues before the Board of School Estimate.

— Sean Spiller

Mr. Spiller’s ethics and conflict of interest initially began as a private matter between Montclair parents and Mr. Spiller some time ago. Rather than address, or even acknowledge, these fair concerns, Mr. Spiller and the NJEA have escalated this issue and done everything possible to defend their own interests, rather than work with the Montclair community.”

On Friday, Judge Moore denied Mr. Spiller’s motion to dismiss the ethics and conflict of interest complaints against him. This is an important first step toward bringing greater transparency to our community and we greatly appreciate Judge Moore’s commitment to a fair and equitable process.”

As the 3rd highest ranking official in the NJEA, Mr. Spiller’s fiduciary responsibility is to his union membership. Mr. Spiller has used his appointment on the Montclair Board of School Estimate to strengthen the Union he represents, and he has done so at the expense of Montclair’s children and taxpayers.

MKF will continue to shine a light on how decisions that impact our children are currently being made in Montclair, and we will use every means at our disposal to do so.

Jon Bonesteel, MKF

52 Comments

  1. POSTED BY specialedward  |  June 01, 2015 @ 9:14 am

    Using the language of MKF supporters, their suit against Spiller is “some kind of sour grapes”. It also “attacks without offering a single solution”. Spiller has “worked on the hard problems facing our schools and students in Montclair and deserves more than your personal attacks”. For MKF, it’s “time to move on”.

    (FYI, these comments were posted using false Facebook profiles. One of them even stole the photo of a University of Texas educator. Upstanding Montclair citizens, this MKF crowd.)

    https://www.northjersey.com/opinion/opinion-letters-to-the-editor/the-montclair-times-letter-by-david-herron-questioning-lombard-s-take-on-montclair-schools-achievement-gap-1.1344054

  2. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 01, 2015 @ 10:19 am

    Well, considering Mr Spiller’s unique combination of roles and his stand for more early education funding, he should take the lead in advocating a Pre-K school in the Lackawanna Redevelopment Plan. It is a rare, limited-time opportunity offering an ideal location, build to suit, and the cash proceeds from additional development rights will pay for it without raising taxes.

  3. POSTED BY yngdaniel  |  June 01, 2015 @ 11:22 am

    While I appreciate MKF thinking Spiller has a conflict of interest (and I’m not even claiming they’re wrong), it’s ridiculous to describe his refusal to step down as “escalating the issue”. It’s not like he was hiding his position with the Union, and got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. His connection with the Union and experience with education is likely the reason he was appointed in the first place. The words used suggest the “Montclair parents” were insulted that Spiller didn’t rush to resign the moment his integrity was called into question.

  4. POSTED BY tonyrod  |  June 01, 2015 @ 11:27 am

    The judge let the most important charge against Spiller stand. Montclair is a flashpoint for the war being waged by NJEA against Common Core and any sort of testing that may eventually become a component of teacher evaluations. Most of us citizens would prefer not to be in the middle of all of this but that is the way the cookie crumbles. I think Sean leaving the Board would be a small but significant step in deescalating the conflict.

  5. POSTED BY barrybamz  |  June 01, 2015 @ 11:44 am

    Don’t forget it’s actually the union’s law firm that is representing Spiller in the lawsuit over holding dueling roles on the Board the NJEA. I could cut him a little slack if he would at least admit that doing both jobs creates the perception of a conflict. Instead, when the allegations surfaced he became extremely defensive and immediately lawyered up. To most people (myself included) that says he knows there is a problem.

  6. POSTED BY meccamagic  |  June 01, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

    Interesting that Jon Bonesteel is attempting to channel El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X)”….and we will use every means at our disposal to do so.” “We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.-Malcolm X, 1965”. Words that I live by.

  7. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  June 01, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

    Tonyrod, your perception of the fight against Common Core is interesting. Nationally and locally, we know this is a “war” being fought by parents, students and teachers, coming from, liberals and conservatives, etc.. And, if you haven’t heard, the Governor just acknowledged the Common Core is not working and is dumpling it. Though I think this is disingenuous, considering he is keeping the PARCC which of course is designed to test the Common Core Standards, he is officially saying it is over.

  8. POSTED BY thanksalatte  |  June 01, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

    The governor’s move is pretty obvious pandering to the GOP base as he prepares to announce his campaign for president. The unions are happy I’m assuming, because of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” philosophy. Christie’s policy shift doesn’t have any bearing on this particular article and Sean Spiller/NJEA ties, though. I predict Sean will eventually step from the board and in my opinion he should. The judge is allowing the suit to continue which suggests he see’s a legitimate legal basis in the core of the complaint.

  9. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 01, 2015 @ 1:55 pm

    I wish someone could explain why this question of an ethical conflict is an education curriculum issue.

    The primary detrimental impact of any bias is to the municipal fiduciary role, not school funding. I don’t see how this has anything to do with the goals of MCAS, MKF, or MSW.

  10. POSTED BY bubs  |  June 01, 2015 @ 2:43 pm

    So, MKF brings a lawsuit against Spiller and they’re somehow shocked and surprised he gets ::gasp:: a LAWYER?

  11. POSTED BY mcasgate  |  June 01, 2015 @ 3:38 pm

    Mr. Spiller, the million dollar lawyers the NJEA is providing you are doing you little service. The statement they suggested you issue reads defensive and bizarre.

    There is no “shadow group,” there are actually signed names filed agains you, membership of MKF is listed on your website and – as you are well aware – countless parents have voice their concerns about your appointment.

    To say the the Judge dismissed three of MFK’s claims is – great, high priced, Im not paying for my lawyer, my union is paying for it – spin. What you are hiding is the fact that you attempted to dismiss the case entirely and the Judge denied your request. The key element, which you fought against, it still alive and well.

    As for “personal attacks,” there have been no personal – MKF is asking that the complaint be judged on the merits, something you and your NJEA lawyers are not allowing because you are not providing discovery evidence, which by the way you must now have to provide after Friday’s ruling. The only attack is that you get paid by the NJEA. I guess that would be considered an attack by some people.

    But reducing township debt, increasing funding for early education, additional support for our library, putting more police officers out on the streets with community policing, and unprecedented funding for street and road improvements are great poll tested issues – that sounds like someone who has bigger political goals, but not really sure what you have actually done in these areas. Best of luck, though!

  12. POSTED BY pardonmyfrench  |  June 01, 2015 @ 3:55 pm

    MKF needs to stop using the front that they are representing “Montclair parents” immediately! They certainly don’t represent me and I am a Montclair parent. They are nothing but a bitter crowd and I don’t believe they are listening to our Interim Superintendant who has very clearly stated that the bickering needs to stop. They are an nothing but an embarrassment.

  13. POSTED BY pardonmyfrench  |  June 01, 2015 @ 4:07 pm

    If you are part of MKF I assume you support your leader who has numerous times attacked Montclair Parents who choose to refuse the PARCC tests for their children. You also support that he had a twitter account that called these parents names and bullied(excellent leader and role model). MKF must also support that their leader who attacked Montclair Public School teachers by posting a very controversial video of teachers speaking at a BOE meeting which played spooky music in the background. That’s what I mean by an embarrassment.

  14. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  June 01, 2015 @ 4:20 pm

    Pardon,

    Could not agree more. The use of “montclair parents” is shameful and frankly insulting for those who want nothing to do with this organization. Fact is, until they come out of the shadows, aside from their mouthpiece, they will still only represent pro-charter, anti-public school advocacy, as seen by their alignment with Mr. Jeffries and their absolute hypocrisy when calling for transparency, yet demanding none of the previous administration.

  15. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  June 01, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

    You don’t see any connection Frank? Many of the same people who support the MSW / MKF groups also support the effort to oust Spiller. It’s not a big jump.

  16. POSTED BY vanb  |  June 01, 2015 @ 4:46 pm

    PardonMyFrench, if they said they “represented every single Montclair parent, including PardonMyFrench”, you’d have a point. They don’t.

  17. POSTED BY yngdaniel  |  June 01, 2015 @ 5:02 pm

    Quoted from above — As for “personal attacks,” there have been no personal –
    The only attack is that you get paid by the NJEA. —

    Really? The claim is that he’s using his position to strengthen his Union at the “expense of children and taxpayers”. Deliberately harming children to advance his career. In what world is that NOT a personal attack?

  18. POSTED BY flynnie  |  June 01, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

    Frank R: I like your idea for a pre-K at Lackawanna Plaza.

    Specialedward: Thanks for the info on the dubious facebook commenters. If they are a part of the MKF efforts, they would certainly show the depths of that group’s duplicity.

    MCASgate’s claim to “countless parents” supporting the suit directly contradicts the claim that MKF is no “shadow group” as there are “actually signed names.” If there are signed names, then those parents can indeed be counted…

    I don’t believe for a moment that MKF is a broad-based organization. They can afford a lawyer to launch this suit and afford to mail out those glossy, glossy fliers, and to run an attack blog, but none of these things show broad-based public support or any actual suggestions for education policy- they just show a lot of time and money.

    I think Mr. Spiller will prevail. The NJEA does not get involved in local contract negotiations (which is the only way they could impact the township budget in any way) nor are their dues affixed to local contracts, and the BOSE does not get involved in contract negotiations, either.

    He has a strong record of service to the community, and I wish him well in the next round of this.

  19. POSTED BY samwich  |  June 01, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

    Spiller’s ethical problems have been an issue for what, almost a year? Lots of people around the community think it is obvious that he should resign but it took a formal legal complaint to actually get things rolling. When he is not working on our local Montclair board he is is a flack for a huge teachers union. This isn’t a matter of “if” there is a conflict but how big it is. Does it rise to the level where he needs to choose one role or the other? It clearly does.

  20. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  June 01, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

    Samwich, regardless of what you believe regarding the ethics in this matter, referring to Sean Spiller as a “flack” for the union is demeaning and insulting and absolutely unnecessary. One might even say a personal attack.

    I am a parent and have great respect for teachers. Unions are comprised of teachers who work damn hard for our chiildren. Teachers have every right to good workng conditions, pay and health benefits. This campaign to malign teachers and destroy unions is appalling and frankly I can’t stomach it any longer. This is an all out assault on the middle and lower class. Only the wealthy should be entitled to good health care, salaries and working conditions. So much for living in a Republic.

  21. POSTED BY pardonmyfrench  |  June 01, 2015 @ 8:58 pm

    Nycmontclair: yes, it’s hard to stomach. Sadly, the folks attacking have no idea what your talking about. Their obvious entitlement attitude has proven they have no clue what it’s like for teachers and lower/middle class folks.
    I am so glad Spiller hasn’t bowed to these people. Let them throw their money away on frivolous lawsuits. We all know they have plenty of it to waste. Such a shame they don’t put it to better use and really put “kids first”!

  22. POSTED BY mcinmtc  |  June 01, 2015 @ 10:18 pm

    I am a Montclair parent, a passionate supporter of public education and public school teachers and the daughter of a retired NJ public safety worker (read, union member). I stand among the ranks of the officially “unaffiliated” in the battle lines of all the groups with all the letters. I value all sorts of education information sources across the spectrum of opinion. I also believe it is completely reasonable to question Mr. Spiller’s service on the BOSE in light of his full-time, paid job. That basic question is not an attack on his character, his intentions or his politics. Nor is it an attack on teachers or people who do not see a conflict between his roles. It’s a sincere difference of perspective and one that has lingered publicly for long enough that a group of residents have asked a judge to provide perspective and — judgment. Like it or not, that’s what the court system is set up to do. When a disagreement cannot be resolved, we don’t have Hamilton-Burr duels any more here in New Jersey. We look for guidance from our courts. Mr. Spiller’s full-time job is completely professional, law-abiding, etc, etc. Teachers deserve and have earned the right to be represented by a professional union. I don’t see the case as a refutation of that. At all. I doubt many others do either. I do think there is room for discussion about the insistence that a person who honestly earns his living as an advocate for the best interest of educators is the absolutely best-suited person to serve on a board that makes municipal decisions on school funding. In business, not-for-profits and government, leaders are advised to avoid “even the appearance of a conflict of interest” when it comes to public money and private/personal compensation. This situation moves toward that “even the appearance” category. We have other bright and dedicated people on the Township Council who do not have the “appearance of a conflict” and it may be best for a different person to sit on the BOSE. Mr. Spiller can continue to represent the 3rd Ward in all Council decisions and on other boards. We have NJ State ethical guidelines that will guide the judge’s review. And honestly, I think we all look forward to a his/her ruling on the situation to put this to bed.

  23. POSTED BY yngdaniel  |  June 02, 2015 @ 8:57 am

    I’ll point out that Mr. Spiller has been a “union flack” since day one of his appointment to the BOSE, and has never hidden his ties to educators and unions. There is nothing new about this claim, I’m not sure why it’s become such a big deal today.

    I agree that asking if this is a conflict of interest is not an attack on his character, but stating flat out that he “used” the position to strengthen the union at the expense of children is very much an attack on his character.

  24. POSTED BY specialedward  |  June 02, 2015 @ 9:48 am

    Attention Mr. Bonesteel, Frankel, Jeffrey, etc.: it’s hard to admit that you’ve beeen defeated, but you have. Montclair has rejected your bad ideas, so enough already with your actions “on behalf of the children of Montclair”. YOur destructive agenda is transparent and no one wants it. Let it go.

  25. POSTED BY drcolson  |  June 02, 2015 @ 10:30 am

    Mr. Spiller has chosen to put himself into these two roles and now finds himself struggling to reconcile his competing interests. There is no reason he should get an exemption for this conflict simply because he promises to act ethically. No one should, and we ought to hold our public officials to an even higher standard. The MKF suit continues, as it should, and will hopefully result in his removal from the Board.

  26. POSTED BY meccamagic  |  June 02, 2015 @ 10:50 am

    It’s not “lots of people around the community”…, it’s 21 with access to a lawyer, a person who has publicly stated he will support this group with his money, and a spokesperson with two venues and a Twitter account. MKF may be hoping that “lots of people” will support this, but “lots os people” don’t. I expect Mr. Spiller to remain in his position, as he has stated.

  27. POSTED BY sandybeach  |  June 02, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

    Doesn’t the township have a general counsel that would normally represent a Board member in this situation? I’m surprised he get’s a powerful union firm and I suspect they are covering his expenses. Facing a complaint of a conflict of interest the first thing the NJEA did was come into town with their lawyers to surround Spiller and counterattack.

  28. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 02, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

    SSP,

    I’m not naive enough to believe that MKF brought the suit because they actually were representing the interests of Montclair taxpayers. Mr Bonesteel’s response reinforces this belief because his statement speaks just to the taxpayer subset of Montclair’s parents. Not taxpayers as a whole which is the party that is impacted by a conflict. This is simply a MKF strategy to influence HOW the school budget is spent – not what is the appropriate total spend.

    The response by Councilor Spiller & MCAS – and the Council’s lack of a response – also reflects this focus on HOW the funds are spent. None seem to concern themselves with the total spend and I believe they all share common ground that even more spending on our schools is a fundamentally good thing.

    The primary duty of the elected municipal majority of the BOSE…and the legal basis for the ethical conflict…is to weigh the local taxpayers interests against the need of the independent BOE & their school district. We all understand the BOSE’s responsibility does not include how the district allocates the levy money. I suspect Judge Moore is also not concerned, and shouldn’t be, with the financial allocations.

    The problem – at least as far as a perceived conflict – is that by having a State level education official on the BOSE, our Council has effectively ceded majority control of the BOSE to the education interests (the 2 BOE members and Mr Spiller). The fact that our Councilors don’t seem to mind bothers me. Mr Spiller’s term officially expired 2 years ago and he continues to serve at the pleasure of the Mayor & the Council. It bothers me this could also be settled by the Council appointing another colleague to the BOSE July 1st. They won’t because it is a political calculation.

    What doesn’t bother me is the time honored fights between Montclair’s parents, teachers & administrators over how the budget should be allocated and what level of power the various stakeholders should hold. MCAS, MEA, PTA, MKF, MSW, NJEA can have the floor.

    But, in this ethics issue, none deserve high ground – at all. These stakeholders and town leaders are using this for their own agenda and, to me, damn the ethics. Well, the next time the Council even alludes to ethics, I just have to mosey down to their next meeting and ask them about leading by example.

  29. POSTED BY stu  |  June 02, 2015 @ 5:43 pm

    I am not a member of any of the three letter teams, but I see the obvious conflict of interest. Just because the majority wants to support the progressive side doesn’t alleviate the conflict. It’s the law and Spiller is clearly and knowingly breaking it. He’s also wasting a lot of union dollars doing so.

  30. POSTED BY dblespresso  |  June 02, 2015 @ 9:20 pm

    Forgive me for being simple but even if MKF were to succeed in their suit, couldn’t the Board simply appoint a replacement for Spiller with the exact same sensibilities? Couldn’t the Board simply appoint someone else with views even more opposed to MKF’s?

    I’m asking because it doesn’t appear that the actors behind this suit have thought past the lawsuit to whether they’d even benefit from winning.

  31. POSTED BY qby33  |  June 03, 2015 @ 7:38 am

    Dblespresso, not simple at all. EXCELLENT point. Attack mode from MKF came hard and fast. I’m not sure it’s members actually thought much through. The glossy mail they have been sending out is actually a ton of negatives about our schools on glossy paper. People not so happy with that. With 20 faces of MKF visible members, we as the public should be asking these folks if they really believe their money is being useful. Like, are their actions really putting “kids first”?

  32. POSTED BY knashville  |  June 03, 2015 @ 10:56 am

    Why all the focus on the finish of the mailers? Matte, glossy or otherwise doesn’t change the ethical questions Mr. Spiller needs to answer. @dbleespresso – we shouldn’t accept the status quo simply because the Board might make the same mistake again. As long as there are members with conflicts of interest we should be proactive in identifying them and finding solutions. In this current case the solution is Mr. Spiller’s resignation.

  33. POSTED BY turner  |  June 03, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

    I’m always wary when a public official claims legitimate complaints about whether or not they are suitable for their position are “personal attacks.” This isn’t about Sean Spiller the person, no one is asking when he stopped beating his wife, it’s about keeping a reasonable separation between his obligations to two competing interests. Here he finds himself with financial oversight over tax dollars which pay the members of the union he represents. That’s a simple dilemma with a simple solution – it’s time to find a new Board member.

  34. POSTED BY donmorgan  |  June 03, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

    Flynnie glibly dismisses Sean Spiller’s conflict of interest thusly: “The NJEA does not get involved in local contract negotiations (which is the only way they could impact the township budget in any way) nor are their dues affixed to local contracts, and the BOSE does not get involved in contract negotiations, either.”

    Virtually everything he/she wrote is disingenuous or distracting: 1) No one claims NJEA gets involved in local contract negotiations, but in the Montclair case,they have their Treasurer, indirectly involved via BOSE; 2) NJEA dues are per member, so if can Spiller can use his BOSE vote to increase teachers’ numbers (and he is all about “more teachers”), NJEA gets more dues paying members and as treasurer, he get more bragging rights; 3) while correct that BOSE does not directly negotiate salaries, they have FINAL SAY on school budget which is mainly comprised of teachers’ salaries. If BOE knows Spiller is sympathetic to hiring more teachers, or higher pay for teachers, they will negotiate differently than otherwise.

    Like everyone, I want Montclair schools to have enough teachers, and I want those teachers to be fairly compensated. I just don’t want school budget decisions being influenced, even indirectly, by the Treasurer of a teachers’ union. Seems like most people on this thread agree.

  35. POSTED BY bubs  |  June 04, 2015 @ 8:06 am

    donmorgan – does NOT in fact seem that most people agree with you (not just NOT on this thread, but this conversation spans far beyond this) but saying a blanket statement about fictitious support is indeed a convenient way to try to end a discussion while pretending you’ve won.

  36. POSTED BY meccamagic  |  June 04, 2015 @ 8:43 am

    Since the Mayor appointed Mr. Spiller to BOSE as well as the new BOE members, has not indicated he will be removing anyone from present BOE or replacing Mr. Spiller, and his willingness to work with Interim Superintendent and move on from current conflicts between MKF, MSW, and MCAS, why don’t we acknowledge MKF for what it is-a well funded PAC getting ready for the upcoming municipal elections, willing to use our children for their projected political ambitions.

  37. POSTED BY fieldingmellish  |  June 04, 2015 @ 9:37 am

    “Seems like most people on this thread agree.”

    on this thread maybe. but the truth is most people I talk to think this is a non issue that is being overblown by a select group of people with their own agenda.

    “most people” disagree with the corporate testing, anti-teacher (if your anti-union, then you’re anti-teacher) ideology that this select group is trying to force down our throats.

  38. POSTED BY donmorgan  |  June 04, 2015 @ 10:29 am

    Bubs, you really cut to the heart of the matter. I guess I should have said “some” instead of “most.”

    Feidlingmesslish, it seems your opinion sample didn’t include the judge who is allowing case to proceed. One can object to this apparent conflict of interest without being anti-union or anti-teacher. I would also object, hypothetically, if a teacher was on BOSE. Would that also make me anti-teacher?

  39. POSTED BY dblespresso  |  June 04, 2015 @ 11:25 am

    Donmorgan, not sure how you came away with the impression there was clear consensus on either the significance or criticality of the Spiller issue.

    Among your arguments, one is that Sean Spiller might somehow benefit by helping boost the numbers of teachers in Montclair since it would boost the number of dues-paying union members.

    The NJEA has nearly 200,000 members. Suggesting that the prospect of a handful more or fewer teachers paying their annual dues is even remotely a focus to anyone within an organization with a membership about 6 times larger than the population of Montclair seems like a hammer looking for a nail.

    I think that’s the reason why there is less consensus than you seem to have taken from this thread. There has been an awful lot of talk about potential, theoretic, hypothetical affects of Mr. Spiller’s other interests but there hasn’t been anything offered about how these allegedly corruptive influences have in any way led to different decisions than would have been made by a reasonable person in his place.

    That’s the problem here. Spiller has been seated for a year. The case against someone because of potential conflicts can only be purely philosophic before they take office. Once they’ve served for a while though, making that case requires at least the assertion that there are tangible, material examples of the problematic behavior in practice.

  40. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 04, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

    The superintendent has been replaced, the BOE reconstituted, Common Core undone and PARCC a lame duck, the only thing left to turn the page is the Spiller issue. It will now stand out even more as a unnecessary impediment to moving forward and all because of a separate political agenda.

    It’s a no-win for the current Council members for the next election because even if they get re-elected, it will serve to polarize residents and probably facilitate an elected BOE referendum. MCAS wins, but it side tracks all the major issues the district needs to deal with. That’s not the end of world either. Just how it goes here.

  41. POSTED BY townie  |  June 04, 2015 @ 12:20 pm

    I’ll weigh in having just received a Montclair Kids First flyer in the mail, which was like a politician’s flyer, in that it said nothing substantive: we are for kids, apple pie, etc. I could only scratch my head.

    The thing about Spiller is that he was elected and then appointed by the Mayor. I don’t follow things that closely but my sense is that this was not done in the dead of night.

    Sometime later this MKF group emerges and decides that picking a fight is how they will put their best foot forward. It seems to be a poor decision. They give us Rambo when we need Gandhi.

  42. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 04, 2015 @ 6:38 pm

    I have no problem shooting the messenger (MKF), but that doesn’t change the ethical issue they brought to the judge. The judge could have easily dismissed the case on the timing, but didn’t. BTW, Mr Spiller appointment was passed by the Council in July, 2012 – two weeks into this administration. There was no public discussion or notice. Not required.

    I believe the above posts are incorrect and that, according to the Montclair Times, the NJEA provided professional negotiators to assist with the last MEA contract.

    But, this sums up why ethics law is so misunderstood by the public:
    “There has been an awful lot of talk about potential, theoretic, hypothetical affects of Mr. Spiller’s other interests but there hasn’t been anything offered about how these allegedly corruptive influences have in any way led to different decisions than would have been made by a reasonable person in his place.”

    The above has absolutely no bearing as far as the laws on the books. The only question before the judge is, with the comprehensive set of ethics law in this state, do any on them actually apply to this situation, and therefore, one big loophole. Well, the judge will decide the question of law, but the spirit of our laws still hang over our Council.

  43. POSTED BY samwich  |  June 04, 2015 @ 7:29 pm

    There is a great effort on here to sweep aside all of Spiller’s ethics issues in favor of some bigger picture philosophical fights over Common Core etc. In fact, Spiller is knee deep in a court fight over what are, to many, obvious conflicts that need to be addressed. You can call it small ball but it is important to many of us to hold our public figures to a high standard. Furthermore, citing populations and union membership doesn’t change the wrongness of Spiller holding his Board seat while working for the union. Watch the nickles and dimes and the dollars will take care of themselves, as they say.

  44. POSTED BY specialedward  |  June 04, 2015 @ 8:59 pm

    “The dollars will take care of themselves”. Kind of like the way the dollars that are being spent by MKF are taking care of their attorney’s bill to go after Spiller? And the dollars that they’re spending on glossy propaganda are taking care of spreading their lies around town?

    What do you think, Sam?

  45. POSTED BY meccamagic  |  June 04, 2015 @ 10:15 pm

    As I said. A small, extremely well funded PAC made up of Families w/no children in the schools, children in private schools, some w/children in MPS, but with the wherewithal to place them in private school, and supporters of the slate that lost the last municipal election. The only way to achieve their present goals is to elect a new Mayor, TC, and to make new BOE appointments to hire a new superintendent. I expect the following mailings to begin to reflect their political intentions.

  46. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  June 05, 2015 @ 7:01 am

    “They give us Rambo when we need Gandhi.” – well said townie!

  47. POSTED BY dakota  |  June 05, 2015 @ 10:28 am

    @specialedward

    I’m confused by the connection you are try to draw between MKF’s attorney’s fees and Sean Spiller’s ethical challenges. When the NJEA looks out for Spiller the thousands of dollars take care of themselves while he continues to represent the union and vote on our local school budgets.

  48. POSTED BY dblespresso  |  June 05, 2015 @ 11:14 am

    Frank, re: your post above (which quoted mine), I fully understand that from a legal perspective it is immaterial whether a potential conflict has or will actually cause material harm. I totally get that.

    I was really referring to MKF’s effort to shape public opinion through tactics like this high-profile but inconsequential lawsuit. As the comments above make clear, the motivation is less about actually achieving any material benefit and more about making a point or winning some philosophic battle. That’s all well and good and I don’t begrudge people for choosing to spend their time and money on moral stands with no likely real-world benefit.

    I was merely pointing out that there is no victory here in the court of public opinion – and that is the court MKF is clearly trying to prevail in. Between the intra-election direct mail pieces, PR-heavy lawsuits, and frequent publishing via sister blogs, etc., it is very clear that MKF is hoping to turn townspeople who rather appropriately see all of this as just more of the theater that we have had well more than enough of into supporters.

    Hey, if MKF wants to pursue the Spiller thing, god bless ’em. Rather than winning converts though, from what I’ve seen, it is actually galvanizing many people’s opinions that they care most about revving up the politics at a time when most folks would prefer exactly the opposite.

  49. POSTED BY thanksalatte  |  June 05, 2015 @ 12:44 pm

    Sean Spiller must have known from the beginning that sitting on the Board while keeping his position at the NJEA was a marginal proposition. The surprise is that it took this long for real opposition to arise. You can argue back and forth about motivations, politics, and the future of education as a whole, but this comes down to whether or not it is ok for a public servant to hold a separate position that puts him at the intersection of the taxpayer dollars and his obligations to a union. Perhaps the courts will rule that it is technically legal, who knows. Common sense tells us it’s a conflict and I hope the judge sees it the same way.

  50. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 05, 2015 @ 2:38 pm

    dblespresso,

    Noted you get it and you know my views already about MKF, so almost there. However, I think there are more than a few people like me who do think their is a real-world benefit here.

    The Council aligned Montclair’s ethics ordinance to eliminate someone serving on our boards and commissions from simply just recusing themselves from matters where a perceived conflict exists. Specifically, it prohibits residents from serving and appearing as a party to an application. I assume the thinking is it would be perceived conflict because the relationship between board members would still influence the discussion and/or eliminate another more objective member’s input. Less than a full board. Note our board and commissions have 7-9 members versus the BOSE’s 3 (excluding the State members from the BOE). This was the spirit under which this Council passed their ethics ordinance changes in Stember of 2012. I get that Spiller is making a separate distinction. I don’t understand the rest of the Council making the distinction.

    I think it is wrong and the Council represents me. It is a matter of principle and fairness for me…and I think a few others concerned with the municipal side of township practices.

  51. POSTED BY ribsnaauce  |  June 05, 2015 @ 6:13 pm

    Remind me again why one of the highest ranking union officials is voting on Montclair school budgets? This conversation is silly. Sean Spiller should save us all the misery and step down.

  52. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 05, 2015 @ 9:51 pm

    ribsnaauce,

    OK, have to agree….especially since you summed it up in less than 3 dozen words and my case required thousands. Really irritating. I might send my posts to you before they go into moderation. You would be doing the readers here a huge favor.

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