Paterson checking political contributions before school board votes on contracts, says board president | Paterson Times Paterson Times

Paterson checking political contributions before school board votes on contracts, says board president

By Jayed Rahman
Published: February 17, 2017


After the pay-to-play scandal involving a consulting contract, the city’s school district is checking political contributions before the Board of Education votes on contracts, according to school board president Christopher Irving.

Irving said the district has put in place a process in which board members will be alerted if a firm seeking business has made a political contribution prior to a vote. Companies are required to file campaign contribution disclosure statements when seeking business from the school district.

“I thought we were always checking beforehand. That’s a procedural piece that we should have checked longtime ago. It just keeps everybody honest and keeps people out of trouble,” said Irving in a late January interview.

The district’s practice has been to check political contributions after the school board voted on a contract. This is an unusual practice, for it defeats the purpose of the law which was created to deter pay-to-play.

“I think it’s long overdue,” said longtime board member Jonathan Hodges of the change. He said the process in which the contributions were checked after the vote and before the state-appointed district superintendent awarded the contract very likely stemmed from the Paterson Public Schools being a state takeover district. Under complete state control, as the school system has been for more than two decades, the school board is advisory without any powers. The district is now partially controlled by the state.

Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for the district, did not provide a response when contacted for comment on the process change.

Irving found himself in hot water as a result of the district’s peculiar practice when news broke in December that a $20,000 contract was awarded to a company owned by Joseph Fulmore, who made a $1,125 campaign contribution to the school board president’s re-election campaign.

State law and a board policy forbid awarding contract over $17,500 to a firm that makes a reportable political contribution to a member of the board of education over the past year.

The district later nixed the contract with Fulmore.

The contribution issue involving the contract prompted some to ask whether the district was even requiring companies to complete the political campaign contribution disclosure form required by both board policies and state law.

Six contracts awarded in the 2015-16 school year shows the district has been requiring companies to complete political campaign contribution disclosure forms. The district provided copies of completed contribution disclosure forms submitted by the six firms through a records request. For instance, Fulmore’s company, Ultimate Education Solutions, submitted a campaign disclosure form when it sought a contract in the last school year.

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