The Montclair Local reports that Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller will be the next president of the NJEA. Sunlight has been monitoring Spiller’s manifest conflict of interest, and in our piece “Councilman Spiller, Mayor Spiller, Governor Spiller? NJEA Members Run for Office,” we noted that Spiller would likely become the next NJEA president. And so he has.
Sunlight would like to remind New Jersey citizens of the real consequences of an NJEA officer holding elected office.
Recall that Councilman Spiller was removed from the Board of School Estimates by a Superior Court judge due to this precise conflict of interest. But it took a group of concerned Montclair citizens filing suit to force Spiller to give up his conflicted role. Revealingly, Spiller saw nothing wrong with his dual roles and fought to preserve them in court. Of course the NJEA paid his legal fees.
Despite his removal from the board and the judicial recognition of his conflict of interest, Spiller saw nothing wrong with making it even bigger by running for mayor. Once again, the NJEA and its allies were the leading funders of Spiller’s campaign, and Spiller narrowly won despite outspending his opponent 8-to-1.
As mayor, Spiller’s conflict of interest has once again come home to roost. Just days before Montclair schools were set to reopen, the Montclair Education Association (MEA) boycotted the superintendent’s plan. During this critical time, Spiller publicly sided with his union by claiming that teachers needed to be vaccinated before schools could reopen safely. The district was forced to sue the MEA. The settlement of that case allowed elementary schools to reopen on April 12, two-and-a-half-months after the initial plan, but no reopening date has been set for middle- and high-schoolers. Once again, Montclair citizens (and students) are paying the price for Spiller’s conflict of interest.
Now Spiller will be NJEA president, and his conflict of interest will grow even larger. Clearly, Spiller does not care about either the actual or the appearance of a conflict of interest. Why should he? He has the backing of the state’s most powerful and deep-pocketed special interest, the NJEA. The NJEA has openly speculated about a member one day becoming governor. NJEA President Spiller is well on his way.