The news out of Montclair puts a dark ethical cloud over Montclair Mayor/NJEA President Sean Spiller. According to the Montclair Local, in a deposition for whistleblower lawsuit against Spiller and the town, Spiller pleaded his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and is seeking to keep the transcript secret from Montclair citizens. Sure sounds like Spiller has something to hide. And yet NJ teachers continue to be forced to fund Spiller’s personal ambitions for higher office.
Per the Local, the whistleblower lawsuit was filed by Montclair’s former-CFO who claimed that Spiller and other Montclair officials improperly gave themselves full health benefits when they were only part-time employees and that Spiller retaliated against the CFO, among other allegations. Recently, Wildwood officials were indicted for the same offense, and the word is that the attorney general has initiated a criminal investigation of Montclair. Spiller’s invocation of the 5th appears to confirm that he is in very hot water. Again.
The news out of Montclair is only the latest in a long line of questions about Spiller’s ethics. Spiller seems unable to distinguish between his own personal interests and those of the people he has a duty to represent, whether the citizens of Montclair or the teachers of the NJEA.
As a councilman, Spiller was famously removed from the Montclair Board of School Estimates by a Superior Court judge for his blatant conflict of interest. Heedless of this ruling, Spiller pursued the Montclair mayor’s office while serving as a NJEA officer. This represented an even larger conflict because at the time, the mayor appointed the school board, which negotiated with Montclair’s NJEA affiliate. Spiller won narrowly, but Montclair citizens soon rebuked him by stripping him of his power to appoint the school board.
But even this did not chasten the ambitious Spiller. In a move widely seen as a stepping stone for higher office — including possibly governor — Spiller started “Protecting Our Democracy,” a dark-money Super PAC of which he is head. Using its own Super PAC, Garden State Forward, the NJEA — of which Spiller is president — was a “founding donor,” contributing to a “substantial seven-figure” media campaign for Protecting Our Democracy. Garden State Forward is funded by regular teachers’ dues, so NJEA leadership — led by President Spiller — is using members’ regular dues to fund Spiller’s personal political ambitions. Once again, the conflict of interest is blatant.
We ask: with a dark ethical cloud hanging over Spiller, how many millions of teachers’ dues will NJEA leadership use to fund Spiller’s personal political ambitions?