The story has been updated with a response from a spokesman for North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco, saying the complaint has “no merit whatsoever,” as well as an attorney for Sacco and the North Bergen Board of Education – who referred to the complaint as “frivolous.”
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
North Bergen mayoral hopeful Larry Wainstein has filed a complaint with the state Department of Education against Mayor/State Senator Nick Sacco (D-32), also the school district’s director of secondary and elementary education, alleging that Sacco has used his political influence to get family members jobs in the BOE.
The complaint, filed yesterday by Mario Blanch – a staunch Wainstein support – is broken up into three counts.
The first count alleges that Sacco used his influence to get jobs for his family members, as well as family members of his girlfriend, Kathryn Somick, in the North Bergen Board of Education or the Hudson County Schools of Technology.
The count lists 14 BOE employees that are related to Sacco or Somick, such as their children, cousins and the mayor’s ex-wife with salaries allegedly ranging from $43,818 and $121,900 (not including Sacco himself).
The total of the alleged salaries is $1,287,550 and does not include retirement, pension and/or other ancillary benefits.
The complaint also says that the 14 BOE employees in question earn benefits that would make the aforementioned salaries total around $1.5 million.
There is no explicit mention of how Sacco influenced the hiring process or if any of the employees in question were qualified for their jobs.
In the second count, the complaint says that Sacco created a position for himself in the board of education in 2012 in order to create a loophole for the assistant superintendent salary cap implemented by Gov. Chris Christie (Sacco’s old job title in the BOE).
The third and final count alleges that school aides and teachers have their employment threatened if they do not agree to campaign for Sacco and his allies, though there is no concrete proof int he complaint to support the allegation.
“Sacco has been misusing his office to line the pockets of his friends and family at the expense of taxpayers for 30 years. The residents of North Bergen want and deserve change and the ethics board should hold Sacco accountable,” Wainstein told Hudson County View in an email.
“It’s unfair to taxpayers that the Sacco household is earning $1.5 million a year, when the average household in North Bergen is making about $60,000 a year. The Sacco family is becoming wealthy off the backs of the North Bergen taxpayers,” Blanch added in a brief phone interview.
Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for Sacco, slammed the legitimacy of the complaint, essentially calling it a publicity stunt.
“This so-called ‘ethics complaint’ isn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Not only is it filled with outright lies and falsehoods, but the authority that it was sent to only applies to elected or appointed school board trustees, which Mayor Sacco is clearly not,” Swibinski said in an email.
“This is a frivolous complaint that is designed only to generate news coverage and it has no merit whatsoever.”
Mitchell L. Pascual, an attorney for Sacco and the North Bergen Board of Education, called the complaint “frivolous” and “fraught with ulterior motive.”
“This complaint is so frivolous and so fraught with ulterior motive that its filing by Mr. Wainstein’s counsel is a violation of the rules of professional conduct for attorneys. For that reason, the Board is considering filing its own ethics complaint in response,” Pascual told Hudson County View.
A full copy of the complaint can be read here.