Kudos to moderator Jon Fortt who knew his facts about NJEA Vice President/Montclair mayoral candidate Sean Spiller’s conflicts of interest and asked the right questions. Fortt rightly pointed out that a NJ Superior Court ruled that Spiller’s conflict of interest disqualified him from serving on Montclair’s Board of School Estimate (BoSE), so it is a serious issue that Spiller must address if he wants to be mayor.
Unfortunately, Spiller did not answer the questions. He spent considerable time attacking Sunlight Policy Center with a lot of falsehoods because SPCNJ had the temerity to lay out the actual facts – and only the facts – about the multiple conflicts of interest a NJEA Vice President/Mayor Spiller would present. Apparently, by throwing mud at SPCNJ, Spiller hoped to deflect attention away from his conflicts. But SPCNJ is not running for Montclair mayor, NJEA Vice President Spiller is.
To reiterate some facts: 1) Spiller is the second-highest elected officer of the NJEA; 2) Spiller has a fiduciary duty to advance and protect the interests of NJEA members, including the Montclair Education Association; 3) Spiller has been paid over $2.1 million as a NJEA officer; 4) the NJEA and its allies have provided $36,598, or 65% of the funding, for Spiller’s campaign; 5) a NJ Superior Court ruled that Councilman Spiller was disqualified from serving on the BoSE due to his conflict of interest; 6) as mayor, Spiller would have an even greater conflict of interest due to his ability to appoint Board of Education members, chair the BoSE and appoint members to the BoSE. These are all incontrovertible facts and no amount of deflection by Spiller can erase them.
Board of Education conflict of interest: Spiller did not address his potential conflict of interest regarding appointing Board of Ed members. He essentially asked Montclair voters to trust him, which the Superior Court clearly found insufficient as a defense against his conflict of interest. Even mayoral candidate Renee Baskerville said she would consult an independent “community board” when appointing Board of Ed members. Spiller gave no such assurance and his clear conflict of interest stands.
BoSE conflict of interest: Spiller promised to appoint someone to sit in his place on the BoSE, but this does not erase his conflict. First, Spiller, himself, would appoint that person, and thus potentially maintain his influence. Second, Spiller did not address what he would do about his power to appoint council members to the BoSE. There are clearly options like Baskerville’s independent “community board,” but Spiller did not seize on that. Why not? Perhaps because he wants to have influence? Spiller’s putative solution does not erase his conflict of interest.
As a reminder, SPCNJ does not endorse any candidate for Montclair mayor. SPCNJ’s sole purpose is to present the facts so that NJ citizens are informed of them. SPCNJ has presented the facts, and only the facts, and defies anyone to show otherwise.