UPDATED with statements from Sean Spiller, Mayor Jackson and Montclair Kids First (below)
Today, Judge Thomas Moore in the case of Montclair Kids First v. Sean Spiller, found for the plaintiff Montclair Kids First and ruled against Sean Spiller, determining a conflict of interest in his service to the Township of Montclair.
Spiller, who did not attend the proceedings but was apprised of the events by his attorney, provided Baristanet with this statement:
Judge Moore took over an hour to read his full ruling from the bench and took extra time and care to note that every action I have taken was above reproach. He noted only that because some may perceive my BoSE service as creating a potential for conflict, he was not comfortable my continued service on that board.
I could not be more proud to support our public schools, our dedicated staff and most importantly the students who are our future.
From its outset, this litigation initiated by MKF has been straight out of the right wing playbook used nationally to vilify teachers and attack public education.
I will continue to fight for progressive values, world class education and the great town of Montclair.
Mayor Jackson said he hadn’t seen the ruling, but added “as I understand it, Judge Moore ruled that Councilor Spiller’s position with the NJEA created a conflict with his Council appointment to the Board of School Estimate. The Council, including Councilor Spiller, were advised differently but His Honor’s opinion rules the day and I respect it.”
Spiller, Montclair’s Third Ward Councilor, was serving on the Montclair Board of School Estimate while also serving as secretary-treasurer of the New Jersey Education Association. The conflict of interest case was the subject of an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
Representing Montclair Kids First (MKF) at the ruling was Shavar Jeffries of Lowenstein Sandler. Representing Mr. Spiller was the law firm of Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum, & Friedman.
In a statement released moments after the ruling, Montclair Kids First (MKF) thanked Judge Moore for his fairness and said “The ruling by Judge Moore was clear – as the NJEA’s third ranking official and a highly paid executive of the teachers union and its affiliates, including the Montclair Education Association, Sean Spiller should have never been appointed to the Board of Estimates, let alone played a major role in determining how Montclair spends its school dollars. The ethical conflict is palpable and does a great disservice to all the public school students in Montclair.”