LIVINGSTON, NJ – The New Jersey School Ethics Commission recently ruled that Livingston Board of Education members Chuck Granata, Bonnie Granatir and Tony Calcado violated New Jersey law when they released to the media the Board’s ethics complaint against former Board member Sheri Goldberg and willfully made a decision contrary to the educational welfare of Ms. Goldberg’s son by failing to sufficiently redact the complaint to protect his identity. The Commission recommended a penalty of censure “…to impress upon these respondents the seriousness of their breach of duty to abide by the Code of Ethics for School Board Members.”
The 14-page decision details testimony provided before the Commission. Click here to read the full decision.
Reached for comment, Ms. Goldberg provided the following statement:
The State of New Jersey Department of Education School Ethics Commission dismissed all 8 of the ethics violations alleged against former Livingston Board of Education member Sheri Goldberg in 2010 and, in 2011, found three current Livingston Board of Education members Chuck Granata, Tony Calcado and Bonnie Granatir guilty of willfully committing two school ethics violations.
The School Ethics Commission stated in its written decision issued on February 23, 2011, that Charles Granata, Antonio Calcado, and Bonnie Granatir were guilty of willfully releasing confidential information which needlessly injured a student and willfully making a decision contrary to the educational welfare of a student by failing to take the time to protect a student’s identity when they released a partially redacted ethics complaint to the news media a week before the 2010 school election. The School Ethics Commission stated it “does not rule out the complainant’s contention that the release of the complaint was strategically timed for days before the April election.”
“By recommending a penalty of censure, the Commission seeks to impress upon these respondents the seriousness of their breach of duty to abide by the Code of Ethics,” the February 23, 2011 decision stated.
In its July 28, 2010 decision, the School Ethics Commission dismissed all charges that alleged Goldberg disclosed confidential information. In fact, the Ethics Commission determined that private conversations between Goldberg and the superintendent did not breach confidentiality, since the superintendent is an ex officio member of the Board.
At a public meeting, Goldberg had revealed that Chuck Granata had secretly taped her telephone conversations. The Ethics Commission determined this disclosure was not a violation, pointing out that no Federal or State law, regulation, court order, or policy requires that the surreptitious taping of Board Member’s conversations remain confidential.
The Commission declared that Goldberg did not make any decisions contrary to the educational welfare of children. Instead they noted that she “respectfully” asked that the Board draft policies “to say exactly and precisely what we mean, so that there is no room for different interpretations.” Likewise she was not found guilty of improperly using any student’s transcript.
In dismissing the charges, the Commission concluded that Goldberg did not surrender her independent judgment to any special interest group, nor did she use the school for personal gain or the gain of her friends. In addition, the Commission found no evidence that Goldberg took action that resulted in undermining, opposing, compromising or harming any school personnel.
“The Ethics Commission decisions speak for themselves. “ Goldberg says about the July 28, 2010 and February 23, 2011 School Ethics Commission decisions.
Ms. Granatir, Mr. Calcado and Mr. Granata released the following statement to The Alternative Press:
We appreciate the efforts of the School Ethics Commission in providing a balanced review of the facts and are gratified to see that in its decision, the Commission seriously questioned the credibility of the former Board member and doubted that our actions were politically motivated. We have consistently maintained that our March 2010 complaint was filed in response to improper behavior of our former colleague. The decision speaks for itself and outlines just one facet of this individual’s behavior, namely and ironically, the improper use of another student's transcript.
The SEC found that we violated two subsections of the School Ethics Act in releasing an inadequately redacted version of our original complaint to the press. First, the decision states that we violated the confidentiality of a student and second, that we did so willfully. It did not, as was previously reported, find us in violation of providing inaccurate information.
While we believe there basis for an appeal, we take away the same lessons we teach our children: honesty, integrity and doing what is right even in the face of adversity. We never, as can be seen by the decision, denied our actions and as such, we accept full responsibility for the findings of the Commission.
Members of the public who are interested in reviewing the SEC's decision may access it on the New Jersey School Ethics Commission's website as a matter of public record.
Read the February 28, 2011 decision here.
Read the July 28, 2011 decision here.
Editor’s Note: Because The Alternative Press is specifically discussed in the context of the decision, we believe it would be a conflict of interest for us to provide an analysis of the decision. We have chosen instead to provide both ethics decisions in their entirety so that the public can read them for themselves and we have also chosen to provide the statements by Ms. Goldberg and the respondents in full, as well.