WEST ORANGE - The West Orange Board of Education said it will convene for a special session to consider an outside investigation to respond to multiple allegations made by a member of the public at a recent school board meeting.
A citizen who attended the meeting on May 21 brought forth allegations of alleged improper use of funds by a district employee and an alleged cover-up by the superintendent. The accuser later posted a statement along with pictures of various public records to support her statement onto the popular Facebook group, West Orange 411.
The records show that in 2016 an administrative assistant at Gregory Elementary School used school funds to pay her personal property taxes to the Millburn township. Later, Superintendent Jeff Rutzky penned a letter to the Millburn’s chief financial officer requesting that a refund of $2,764.40 be made to the school district because of the “error.”
The money was refunded, records show.
It is unclear if Rutzky informed the Board of Education regarding the error or his effort to recoup the money, which is part of the allegation made by the public, according to the Facebook posts.
On Saturday, the BOE released a lengthy statement after seeing what it described as “inflammatory and possibly defamatory comments concerning various district employees and professionals, at public meetings and on various social media sites, attempting to vilify certain individuals.”
The WOBOE “does not condone this conduct and is gravely concerned by its negative impact” on the district staff and reputation.
“As the public and staff are well aware, the WOBOE and its administration are legally precluded from discussing personnel actions in public, or responding to inquiries regarding personnel. Many personnel matters are appropriately addressed through the District’s Administration.
“When it is necessary for the WOBOE to take appropriate personnel actions, it always does so within the parameters of the law, while remaining mindful of the need to protect the privacy rights of our staff. While private citizens enjoy a First Amendment right to speak at public meetings and/or post information on social media, the WOBOE wants to remind everyone that we should all be working together to ensure that our district embodies the same values of kindness, respect and propriety that we all endeavor to impart to our children.
“If a particular matter requires an investigation, the WOBOE immediately directs the appropriate staff and/or its professionals to investigate the matter, and report the findings to the full board of education, so that proper remedial measures can be taken.
“In response to allegations and documents presented to the board earlier this year, the board previously reported in open public meeting, that it was conducting an investigation. Furthermore, in the coming week, the board will convene a special executive session to explore engaging a third-party, independent investigator to investigate all allegations.
“Rest assured that the WOBOE members, who were duly elected by the citizenry of West Orange, work tirelessly to make the West Orange School District the best possible learning environment for our students and working environment for our staff. We call upon all West Orange residents to do the same.
“Thank you for your patience, partnership and understanding, in these matters. We thank our veterans for their sacrifices, and wish you and your families a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend.”