Once again, the Star-Ledger steps up to keep NJ citizens and teachers informed about what’s really going on with the New Jersey’s most powerful special interest, the NJEA — this time about the walking conflict of interest that is NJEA President/Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller. As we noted last week, the ethically-challenged Spiller finds himself in some very hot water after pleading the 5th (against self-incrimination) in a whistleblower lawsuit and then asking the court to keep the transcript secret. As always, Spiller wants to keep everyone in the dark, and kudos to the Star-Ledger for shining a light on Spiller’s history of ethical lapses.
We recommend you read the entire editorial, entitled “Gov. Spiller? Not until he explains all this.” In it, the Star-Ledger recognizes Spiller’s gubernatorial ambitions and states: “Spiller needs to address the many legitimate concerns about his ethics, with as mayor of Montclair, and as president of the New Jersey Education Association.”
The editorial goes into detail about the whistleblower lawsuit by Montclair’s former-CFO, which alleges that Spiller availed himself of full health benefits as a part-time employee, signed off on illegal contracts, and then retaliated against the former-CFO for pointing this all out. Spiller wants to keep his deposition secret and everyone in the dark about the particulars.
Importantly, the Star-Ledger notes that Spiller sees nothing wrong with his “profound and obvious” conflicts of interests as a councilman, as mayor and as NJEA president. The Star-Ledger asks of Spiller: “Is it really in the best interest of teachers to use millions of their dues to advance his own political career, without their knowledge?” The fact is that NJEA leadership — led by President Spiller — has kept teachers in the dark about how their dues are spent on the NJEA’s Super PAC, Garden State Forward, which has been used to fund Spiller’s political career in Montclair and now his own dark-money Super PAC, Protecting Our Democracy.
The Star-Ledger concludes that Spiller has “shown that until people step up and force him to answer questions or get rid of his conflicts of interest, he won’t.” Is anyone at the NJEA holding Spiller accountable? “We don’t know because it’s all behind the scenes.”
As Sunlight’s readers know, this latest scandal is simply another in a long line of ethical lapses by Spiller. Indeed, it was almost predictable. All funded by NJ teachers.
We’ll leave the last word to the Star-Ledger: “The people of New Jersey deserve transparency without a whiff of conflict — not another political who operates in the dark.” We’d just add that teachers deserve the same.