BAYONNE, NJ - Two sitting Board of Education members, both on the ballot this year, were named in a lawsuit brought on by the daughter of a third candidate on Sep. 26, just weeks before voters go to the polls.
In her suit Tara Furmaniak, the daughter of former Board of Education Business Administrator, and current BOE candidate, Leo Smith, claimed that she had been passed over for the position of assistant principal in what amounted to political retaliation. Furmaniak is the niece of former mayor Mark Smith.
Furmaniak was previously promoted to serve as the vice-principal of the Woodrow Wilson School at the sunset of the previously appointed Board of Education’s existence, and, after serving in the position for two academic years, reassigned to the position of guidance counselor by the newly installed, and elected, board. Furmaniak’s new position came with a $65,000 pay cut.
Court documents show that Furmaniak believes she was passed over for the assistant principal job because her familial relations, relationships that caused bias against her. In her suit she outlines that her experience was more suitable for the position than the other two applicants, though one board member, speaking to TAPinto Bayonne on the condition of anonymity, and referring to her experience only as a teacher prior to the two-year stint at Woodrow Wilson School, disputed that.
Specifically, the suit alleges that those named in the documents, Wilbeck and Finnerty, disparaged her at a meeting when she was nominated for the job, claiming she was “part of the Smith family.” Superintendent John Niesz is also named for his failure to press to have her hired based on her experience.
Wilbeck, when contacted, said he would not comment on the story.
Citing the pending litigation several school officials refused to speak publicly on the matter, while one called it a “a political stunt.”
“She’s not going to win this,” one source said more bluntly. “But it will likely keep her from being promoted in the future. She should not have done this before her father’s election. It looks suspicious.”
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