School board president Christopher Irving spent almost three times as much money for his re-election campaign this year compared to three years ago, according his pre-election campaign filings with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
Irving spent $16,974 in the November election, according to his 11-day pre-election report. He spent $5,795 in 2013. He was among seven candidates vying for three full-term three-year seats on the school board. He was seventh on the ballot and had to step up spending to reduce the ballot position disadvantage, according to political strategists.
Irving sent multiple mailers to voters, purchased many billboards, and took out television ads. His television ad aired on CNN and BET creating a stir in the community. Some questioned the source of his funds.
“I want to know who those investors are,” said Corey Teague. “What are they looking for in return?” He said as the school board is on the verge of gaining local control from the New Jersey Department of Education it will open up a lot of opportunities for “investors.”
Teague mentioned the district’s half-billion budget. “That’s a lot of potential patronage jobs, lucrative contracts,” he said. Irving was delinquent in filing campaign reports on a timely basis as were many of his opponents making it impossible for voters to ascertain the source of each campaign’s money and where funds were being expended prior to the election.
Teague has written a letter to the New Jersey Department of Education urging the state to reconsider returning local control of the city’s school district for fear it will open the doors to “unethical practices, reckless behavior, poor management of funds, questionable contract awarding or political patronage jobs.”
Paterson schools were taken over by the state due to educational and fiscal shortcomings in 1991. Frank Napier, who ended up getting his name on School 4, was superintendent at the time. He was accused of incompetence for his “inability to demonstrate an understanding of the role and function of a chief school administrator.” The school board was accused of being far more interested in petty issues than providing city students an education.
When asked about his television ads on Wednesday night, Irving said it’s not as expensive to purchase television ads in the Paterson market as many people imagine. He joked his ads landed on “primetime.” He would not say how much he spent on the television ads. A final tally of Irving’s campaign expenditures will not be known until he files the 20-day post-election report.
The state has yet to receive Irving’s post-election report which was due last Monday.
Those who have purchased television advertising in the past have said production alone costs $5,000 to $7,000 for a commercial. “Taking out a television ad in a presidential race is pretty expensive,” remarked Teague.
Irving was also accused of failing to label his mailers with the required “paid for by” line. He received much criticism during the campaign for failing to abide by a basic campaign rule. He did not respond to multiple calls for comments during the campaign to provide an explanation for failing to properly label his mailers.
The state has not received filings from Emanuel Capers and Teague. Capers said he filed a report, but the state on Monday said it has yet to receive any filings from him. Teague said he is in process of filing a sworn statement.
Joseph Atallo opened a campaign depository. The state has not received any filings from him.
Stacy Coleman was fully compliant during the campaign. She filed a 20-day post-election report. She spent $4,500, according to her report.
Flavio Rivera and Manny Martinez formed a joint committee. Both filed a late sworn statement the state received almost a month after the election. The statement said the two candidates did not exceed $8,500 in expenditures.
Martinez ran against Errol Kerr for a two-year unexpired seat. Kerr was also fully compliant during the election. Kerr’s 20-day post-election report shows he spent $3,040.
The state has not received any filings from Kenneth Simmons. He said on Monday afternoon that he has filed a sworn statement. Simmons, who was ousted in the recent election, served two terms or almost seven years on the school board. When asked about his loss, he said money was a problem. “The only thing I can think of is money,” he said.
Simmons was an ally of Irving until the 2015 vote to appoint a school board president. He voted for longtime school board member Jonathan Hodges. He said he is still friends with Irving.
Both Kerr and Teague said they ran against the Democratic Party machine which supported their opponents particularly Irving and his allies.
“Now the deck is stacked in favor of machine candidates,” remarked Teague.