Several members of the Jersey City Board of Education participated in a heated discussion about ethics during a special meeting held at district headquarters on Tuesday night.
“The weakest link in this district is us. The strict terms this document lays out, in regards to this board, are a review to this board, the terms of rebuke we have earned are based solely on behavior,” said Trustee Ellen Simon.
“One stipulation is that the board, and individual members thereof, recommit to meet the obligations under the school ethics code and the board member school of ethics. Note it says ‘remit.’ Our commitment to the school ethics code has again been so weak, it needs renewal.”
Simon went on to say that the board has “consistently failed” to “uphold and enforce” laws, pointing out that the board rejected a school nepotism policy introduced last month.
For the public school district to ever regain full local control, which was what Tuesday’s meeting centered around, the Jersey City BOE must agree on a new code of conduct for nepotism.
Simon also claimed that in December, a board member violated the ethics code by screaming at Lyles “at length,” as well as accusing fellow Trustee Gerald Lyons – without mentioning his name – of violating the ethics code by “administrating the schools” regarding a proposal.
Lyons was evidently angered after hearing such a proclamation, stating he simply directed a constituent how to have a proposal considered.
“One thing I can tell you is I always follow the law, all the time. When a person emails me, with an idea, I forward it – like any complaints that come. I didn’t act out, I didn’t interact with that woman: I asked her to forward it to all the board members and asked her to present it at the board meeting – which she did,” Lyons explained.
” … However, if you find flaw with that, I don’t know, are you suggesting I should just ignore her email? I did what I thought was appropriate. I act ethically all the time. That might not be the way you see ethically, done, but I act ethically all the time … I’m getting really tired of you constantly telling us how bad we are!”
Lorenzo Richardson, a friend and former running mate of Lyons, implied that Simon was working at the behest of Lyles and didn’t know what she was talking about when it comes to ethics.
“This is the same individual, who was noted in the newspaper, as someone who … allegedly conspired … to bring this superintendent here. With the former commissioner of education,” Richardson said.
“And I don’t know if you call that nepotism or cronyism, or what you’d call that, but you can’t say people are doing things … when you point your finger at someone like that, you have three fingers pointing at yourself. I am so disgusted by those comments that I just heard.”
“The fact of the matter is we are putting pressing issues on the table and they are being smacked away into the wind. And we want nothing but the best for these children,” he added.
Richardson also called for the board to censor Simon for her comments, but counsel Ramon Rivera said the board did not have the authority to take such an action.
Marilyn Roman, the vice president of the board, said she actually would prefer if Simon was allowed to say whatever she wants,
“In terms of ethics, I’ve been elected to a lot of boards, and I’ve spent a lot of time on them, and I’ve always been an ethical person. I didn’t say I wouldn’t vote for an ethics code,” Roman explained.
“I said when the rest of this board, when the district decides to raise their hand to be able to say they would promise to be ethical, I would do the very same thing. Not that I wouldn’t be ethical without that raising of the hand. But that I would do the same thing.”
“Because we know, most of sitting around this table, in the last few months, we have not only had things that are totally unethical happen here, but also downright illegal,” she stated.
Roman also took a shot at Simon for allegedly “storming out of the room” during an instance where a measure she supported did not receive five votes to pass.
Simon opted not to respond to any of her critics on the board and no formal action was taken regarding the ethics code.