A Hackensack citizens group today filed a lawsuit demanding that the Board of
Education correct language on voting machines that the group claims, “grossly
misstates the true cost of a $170 Million referendum.”
Hackensack Smart Schools Inc. says this is the second time that the citizens group has
objected to school district materials that falsely minimize the impact of the referendum
on taxpayers in a similar manner.
“We don’t know whether this is deliberate deception or gross incompetence by the
Board of Education,” says Martin Cramer, who is one of three trustees who formed the
group last year. “We are not going to allow them to continue to spread false information
that misleads taxpayers without a fight.”
Cramer, an attorney, says the purpose of the lawsuit is to compel the Board of
Education to change language on the voting machines stating that the $170 Million plan
will cost the average city taxpayer “…$308 over 30 years” or about $10 per year. The
ballots should state that the actual tax increase would be $308 “per year” for 30 years.
In an email, Board President Lara Rodriguez confirmed that the voting machine
language does not include the words “per year” and says that, “efforts to get the ballots
reprinted were unsuccessful.”
On Friday, School Board Attorney John Geppert sent an email to the County Clerk’s
office asking the county to print new ballots with an “updated ballot question to be used
which includes the phrase per year.”
But when an attorney for the county told Board officials they would have to pay for all
related costs and also indemnify the county, school officials backtracked and decided to
stick with the original misleading language. Cramer finds this decision infuriating.
“School officials know that they are wrong and that many taxpayers could be duped by
their false statement but they apparently don’t care,” Cramer said. “That speaks
volumes about how desperate they are to pass their absurdly expensive and
unnecessary referendum next Tuesday.”
Cramer and Mayor John Labrosse previously objected to another error that misstated
the cost of the referendum. An official informational flyer distributed by the school district
last month falsely claimed that the $170 Million project cost, “…already includes
interest.” The actual cost including interest exceeds $300 Million. Acting
Superintendent of Schools Rosemary Marks repeated the false claim in a December 17
letter she sent to Cramer.
“Board of Education President Lara Rodriguez acknowledged this so-called error in an
email she sent on January 5,” adds Cramer. “Now we have more mistakes on the
printing of sample ballots and the voting machines. This is the Gang that Can’t Shoot
Straight and they should not be entrusted to spend $170 Million tax dollars.”
Marks has not responded to an email requesting comment. Tapinto will continue to
follow this story closely as the January 22 referendum approaches.