Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has named four women to sit on the embattled local employment and training program, bringing the board back up to their recommended nine members after several weeks of turmoil.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Pamela Gardner, a former Hudson County Register of Deeds and Mortgages as well as an active member of the NAACP, McNair Academic High School Athletics Supervisor Kristen Hart, real estate broker/Golden Door Charter Schools Board of Trustee Vice President Tonya Keyes and Public School No. 15 Principal Michelle West will serve on the board.
“Investing in our families is top priority, and it is an investment in our community as a whole,” Fulop said in a statement.
“There is no question JCEPT has had major issues and the residents of Jersey City deserve better. We are going to be aggressive in repairing the damage that was done and making this the best employment and training office for all residents that need help.”
Gardner is replacing Rudolph Daniels, while Hart succeeds longtime board member Robert Knapp – who resigned in June after serving as chairman for less than a day. Gardner’s term expires on June 30th, 2022, while Hart’s term expires on June 30th, 2020.
Additionally, West will serve through June 30th, 2021 and is stepping in for Mark Rowan.
Finally, Keyes will also sit on the board until June 30th, 2020 to fill the seat vacated by former chair and acting director Sudhan Thomas.
“JCETP is a vital community outreach program in Jersey City having helped more than 25,000 Jersey City youth alone in the last two decades,” added JCETP Board Chair Stacey Flanagan, also the Jersey City Director of Health and Human Services.
“These new board members come with a breadth of experience and I am confident they will provide the diversity, entrepreneurship and community and spiritual guidance needed, helping to ensure our youth, and anyone at a disadvantage, has the tools they need for a bright and successful future.”
Thomas gave his two weeks notice as executive director on July 22nd as the board searches for their third executive director this year, hoping to find a new agency chief by the end of the month.
A former JCETP employee, Nuria Sierra, had previously accused Thomas of financial malfeasance, largely due to writing three checks out to cash worth $16,500.
She has filed a whistleblower in Hudson County Superior Court today against Thomas and Chief Financial Office Angela Santa, alleging that she was fired for violating the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
Thomas played an instrumental role in having former JCETP Executive Director Jim McGreevey fired in January, with he and a city spokeswoman alleging that the former governor mismanaged “millions” of dollars at the autonomous agency.
Both Thomas and McGreevey have previously denied any wrongdoing.
In a lengthly statement, Thomas pushed back against the suit, noting that Sierra is being represented by Bill Matsikoudis, who ran against Fulop in 2017, and that Sierra was was the “fulcrum” that allowed McGreevey to misappropriate funds.
“This is a political retaliation fully funded and orchestrated by McGreevey to cover up and distract the public from the over $ 5 million misappropriated and transferred to NJRC, his personal corporation from JCEPT, as confirmed by the Forensic audit which was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Thomas said.
“The plaintiff, Sierra, was the fulcrum between McGreevey’s NJRC and JCETP; Sierra wrote out every check, paid every bill and personally posted every transaction in the JCETP and NJRC financial accounting software totaling over $ 2.8 million in co-mingling of JCEPT funds and thus excess billing charged to JCEPT by NJRC, McGreevy’s corporation.”
Earlier this week, only HCV reported that Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro is calling for the governing body to either form an investigative committee or use their subpoena power on JCETP.