Looks like NJEA President/Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller is actively pursuing his personal political ambitions, and he’s happy to use New Jersey teachers’ highest-in-the-nation dues to do it. Perhaps Spiller’s mounting legal troubles in Montclair have spurred him to seek greener pastures for his next campaign for public office.
The New Jersey Globe reports that Spiller, “a possible candidate for governor,” has launched a “seven-figure” — that is, millions of dollars — ad campaign addressing the hot-button Democratic Party issues of gun violence and protecting democracy. Sure sounds like Spiller has his eyes on statewide office.
Funded by teachers’ highest-in-the-nation-dues. The funding vehicle behind the campaign is Spiller’s dark-money Super PAC, Protecting Our Democracy (sense a theme?), whose “founding donor is the NJEA.” Given the million-dollar scale of the effort, the NJEA is almost certainly using its own Super PAC, Garden State Forward, to fund Protecting Our Democracy. Garden State Forward is funded by teachers’ regular annual dues, so it is New Jersey teachers who are funding Spiller’s personal political ambitions — whether they like it or not.
Spiller Is a Walking Conflict of Interest. Spiller’s political career has been marked by his multiple conflicts of interest, although that never deters his personal political ambitions. As a Montclair councilman, Spiller was removed from the Board of School Estimates (which approves school budgets) by a Superior Court judge because of his blatant conflict of interest as an NJEA officer.
But that didn’t stop Spiller. Spiller then ran for mayor, where his conflict of interest was even greater because at the time the mayor appointed the school board. That didn’t bother Spiller either but it did bother Montclair citizens: Spiller won by less than 2% despite outspending his opponent 30-to-1 (thanks to the NJEA). Montclair citizens then showed their displeasure at Mayor Spiller’s conflict of interest by stripping him of his appointment power.
Now, Spiller’s personal political ambitions have come directly into conflict with the interests of the teachers that his union represents. As NJEA president, Spiller has a fiduciary duty to represent the interests of teachers, but is funding Spiller’s Super PAC in the interest of teachers? Is furthering Spiller’s personal political ambitions a proper use of their dues? What other decisions will President Spiller make when it comes to allocating NJEA money and resources for his own political purposes? The conflict of interest is once again blatant and manifest.
Spiller’s questionable ethics surely raise important questions for New Jersey voters. Would a Governor Spiller, with a long career as a NJEA officer and over $3 million in NJEA compensation, govern the state in the best interests of its citizens?
And what about New Jersey teachers? The average teacher earns $70,000 a year (before paying New Jersey’s hefty taxes) and has $999 withheld from her paycheck, which is now being used to fund NJEA President Spiller’s personal ambitions. What would teachers think if they knew these facts?