LIVINGSTON, NJ - In the wake of a series of investigative stories by The Alternative Press regarding the conduct of Livingston Board of Education member Sheri Goldberg, four of the five members of the Livingston Board of Education (Antonio Calcado, Stanley Graboski, Charles Granata, and Bonnie Granatir) have now filed formal ethics complaints against the fifth Board member, Goldberg.
In a previous article, The Alternative Press revealed that the majority of the Board felt that Goldberg had acted outside of her scope and authority on numerous occasions. On January 11, Goldberg issued a public apology in response to The Alternative Press article of January 7th in which Board President Chuck Granata, Vice President Bonnie Granatir, and member Stan Graboski outlined their concerns and listed action that Goldberg had taken that they collectively felt were inappropriate.
The complaints, which outline several actions taken by Goldberg that the four other Board members believe violate the Code of Ethics for School Board Members, were forwarded to the Ethics Commission in Trenton. Once received, the Commission will review the complaints to determine whether they merit a hearing.
"The four-member majority feels that our claims are significant," says Vice President Bonnie Granatir. "It's critical for the Board to operate in an environment of mutual respect and trust; unfortunately, the trust we once had in our colleague has been broken, and a considerable disagreement regarding the roles and responsibilities of a Board member exists. After consulting with several experts, we decided that our only avenue of resolution was the Ethics Commission. We hope that the Commission will clarify things and bring this matter to a close. We respectfully ask that the community let the process take its proper legal course in the appropriate forum, and that they allow us to get back to the business at hand without dwelling on the complaint."
The four members filing the complaint said they understand that some citizens have been made uncomfortable by the recent internal struggles, and said that they want to assure the community that Board business will continue to be discussed civilly and professionally, as they say it has been during recent Board meetings. "While we may disagree, all of us have demonstrated that we can come to the public Board table and work collegially," explained member Tony Calcado. "With the tentativeness of the State budget and the need for the Board and administration to tailor our budget accordingly, cooperation is essential. I have every confidence that each of us can set aside our philosophical differences, and allow the Ethics Commission to do their work while we concentrate on doing ours."
"Although we regret the need to lodge ethics complaints against a fellow Board member, we really have no choice," said President Chuck Granata. "Elected officials are responsible for working within the proper boundaries, and for working as part of the team (and not as an individual). In this regard, my three colleagues and I have expressed our collective concerns and made numerous internal attempts to gain Ms. Goldberg's cooperation during the past several months. Our efforts have included private discussions and group meetings with Ms. Goldberg, and a public governance session. Unfortunately, all efforts have failed. We are at an impasse, and must rely on the Ethics Commission to make a ruling on what constitutes appropriate Board member conduct. Until that decision is made, we will continue to work diligently on critical initiatives - particularly the current budget. I cannot stress enough that each of us is dedicated to supporting the administration, being fiscally responsible, and serving the needs of all Livingston taxpayers and students despite the current disagreement."
Once the four members who have filed the charges are notified whether the complaints will result in an ethics hearing, details regarding the specific charges leveled against Goldberg can be released to the public, the four Board members said. "The Ethics Commission does not require that we refrain from publicizing the basis of our complaint at this time," member Stan Graboski says. "However, they suggest that we wait until they make a decision regarding moving forward, and we are following that recommendation."
The Alternative Press has contacted Ms. Goldberg for comment regarding the filing of ethics complaints against her and her response is being published in its entirety. She replied, "I hold myself and others to the highest ethical standards and have always conducted myself as a board member in accordance with those standards. I have not seen the charges that have supposedly been filed against me, and therefore I cannot comment upon them."
Ms. Goldberg continued, "I am deeply saddened that, at the time of the biggest fiscal crisis ever faced by the Livingstn public schools, board members have diverted their time and energy away from that crisis in order to draft a baseless ethical complaint against me. I believe it is critical that, instead of frivolously re-directing our attention from this crisis, we as board members work together collectively in an atmosphere of trust, respect and open communication to deal with our dire fiscal emergency."
She concluded, "I expect to vigorously contest any charges that may have been filed against me, and I anticipate that, at the end of the process, I will be fully vindicated. At this point I want all of us to spend our time focusing on saving programs that directly benefit our students while remaining fiscally responsible."