Legislators Propose Law Preventing Convicted Criminals From Campaigning For School Boards

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EDISON, NJ – Two 18th District lawmakers have introduced bills in the Assembly and Senate that would require all Board of Education candidates to certify under oath they have never been convicted of crimes that would disqualify them from campaigning for school boards.

If enacted, the law that Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, D-Middlesex, proposes would require school board candidates to file a formal certification – along with their nominating petition – affirming they were never convicted of any disqualifying crimes.

Lying or falsifying that oath would be a fourth-degree criminal offense.

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Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, has introduced an identical Senate measure.

“Pat (Diegnan) and I recognize that it crucial to preserve the sanctity of our school boards. Men and women who seek election to these seats may become responsible for the education, safety, health and welfare of our children,” Karabinchak said. “Protecting our children is our top priority.”

Karabinchak said that the bill would only be in the case of a conviction for a “crime” in New Jersey, which is the same as a felony in other states and requires an indictment on the charges.

“Candidates who win election to school boards in most New Jersey communities end up being responsible for multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded budgets. It is imperative that these candidates are reputable people deserving of the public's trust,” Diegnan said.

The bills were introduced a month after convicted felon Nilesh Dasondi abandoned his campaign for this year’s Edison Board of Education race when the state Department of Education (DOE) ruled that Dasondi would not be eligible to serve, if he were to be elected.

Dasondi pleaded guilty in 2009 to using his now-defunct company to obtain fraudulent visas and green cards for Asian-Indian immigrants.

He served six months in federal prison on second-degree felony charges of immigration fraud and money laundering resulting from his $850,000 immigration scam.

He also paid a $50,000 fine, $296,922 in restitution, and was on probation for two years after his prison release.

Current state law, does not prevent people with criminal convictions from running for school board. Once elected, board members and charter school trustees take an oath affirming they have no prior criminal convictions.

Anyone who lies on that oath may be found guilty of a fourth-degree crime.

They must also undergo criminal backgrounds check within 30 days to ensure their eligibility to serve.

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