Hackensack School Board Agrees to Release Attorney Legal Costs After Lawsuit Threat

Long time Hackensack BOE attorney Richard Salkin responds to a resident at a public meeting last year. Credits: Courtesy of Observer

HACKENSACK, NJ -- The Hackensack Board of Education has agreed to turn over financial records concerning School Attorney Richard Salkin's contract and compensation after opposing school board candidates threatened to file a lawsuit demanding the information along with other public records.

Wendy Martinez, campaign manager for the "Putting Our Kids First" campaign of Frances Cojelga, Lance Powell and Carlos Velez filed an official Open Public Records Act (OPRA) on February 26.  State law requires OPRA requests to be returned within 7 business days. On Tuesday, Martinez notified the Board that the candidates would file a lawsuit if Salkin's records were not provided by March 15.  

“You have to wonder what the school board is so desperate to hide that they would blatantly violate state law concerning Open Public Records,” said Martinez. “But we will not be intimidated by these bullying tactics.  The public is entitled to this information and we are going to get it.”

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In a written response sent to Martinez, Assistant to School Business Administrator Adrian Pollio called the requests "political" and defended the school board's decision to delay the response. "Most specifically, where you are seeking emails between the board attorney and the board president, it would be inappropriate and a conflict of interest for the board attorney to conduct any necessary redaction," said Pollio. "Thus, it is necessary for the school district to retain outside counsel to perform this task." 

In a subsequent email to Martinez, the Board agreed to provide Salkin's financial information, but not the emails, by tomorrow, March 16.

At issue is the compensation and contract for Board Attorney Richard Salkin, wo has long been associated with the Zisa family that has played a prominent role in Hackensack politics for decades. Last year Salkin served as the Campaign Counsel for the Zisa-backed candidates who were defeated by Mayor John Labrosse and his council slate, and he garnered widespread attention for a fiery exchange he had with Mayor Labrosse at a public meeting. 

The Board of Education election will be held on April 17.

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