City Council May Launch Sumter Investigation

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Kenneth Sumter
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PATERSON, NJ - The City Council is considering launching its own investigation into a politically-connected teacher's employment as Mayor Jeffrey Jones' Technology Director while he remained on the school's district's full-time payroll.
A state education department audit released last month said city school officials gave the teacher, Kenneth Sumter, a significantly reduced schedule but continued to pay him $87,678 in full salary and benefits so he could work at city hall for the mayor for $50,000. The school district has conducted its own investigation and state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans said he found no evidence of wrong-doing by Sumter.
 
But northjersey.com has reported that city and school district payroll records allegedly show that Sumter's time sheets overlapped.
 

"I'm not too happy with the results that came out of the audit and I think the Board of Education and superintendent didn't go in the right direction,'' said Councilman Julio Tavarez.
 
Tavarez said he thought Evans took a soft stand on Sumter to protect himself because of his own responsibility in the controversy. Evans did not respond to a request for comment.
 
At Wednesday night's city council meeting Tavarez tried to convince his colleagues to back a resolution asking the the Attorney General to investigate the Sumter situation.
 
"I think there's a criminal act here, that's my opinion,'' Tavarez said. "At some point somebody took money for something they were not supposed to. You're not allowed to punch in at two locations at once. It doesn't work that way.''
 
But Councilmen Anthony Davis, William McKoy and Kenneth Morris said they thought the city council should review the state audit findings and conduct its own probe of the situation before asking the Attorney General to intervene.
 
Morris said he thought contacting the Attorney General indicated a "presumption of guilt.'' Tavarez disagreed, saying he simply wanted a "higher authority" to investigate the situation. Tavarez said the city's own investigation could be interpreted as "politically-motivated by either side.''
 
Sumter is part of the mayor's inner circle and his wife, Shavonda Sumter, was Jones' campaign manager. She is now running for Assembly in the 35th legislative district on the Democratic ticket. Tavarez's sister, Rhina Tavarez , unsuccessfully ran for the 35th district Assembly seat in the Republican primary last month. 
 
Sumter could not be reached for comment.
 
The City Council on Wednesday decided to vote on a resolution whether to convene a "Committee of the Whole" at its July 19 meeting. Under city law, the council can convene a "Committee of The Whole," which consists of all city council members, to investigate municipal government matters.
 
 

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