The city’s school district incurred $4,059 in legal costs in defending school board member Emanuel Capers against the ethics complaint filed by the Paterson Education Association, the teachers’ union.
Both Capers and the teachers’ union settled the case last month. Capers issued an apology to members of the union as part of the settlement.
“I’m sorry our district had to pay for this. I feel terrible. It was a really foolish charge he filed,” said Capers speaking of John McEntee, Jr., president of the union. “I think the union should pay the bills.”
The union has no plans to pick up the legal tab.
McEntee said it’s “unfortunate” the district had to spend money for Capers’ “legal troubles rather than spending that money on the needs of the students of Paterson.”
When asked how much the union spent in the case, McEntee said, “I am not at liberty to share our legal costs.”
“He probably spent double that,” said Capers. He said it was a waste of money for both sides.
McEntee filed the complaint against Capers after he posted a video on Facebook that showed a teacher swearing and shouting at a group of unruly students. He viewed the school board member’s action as “unethical.”
Capers argued his intention in posting the video was to inform the community that the teacher’s conduct was unacceptable and the district would take actions. The teacher in the video quickly resigned after the incident.
Capers on Wednesday said he was not aware of the amount the district had expended in the case. The district provided the legal cost incurred in the case on Wednesday in response to a records request.
“If I would have lost, I would have had to pay the entire case. You know why people settle? Because they don’t have anything,” said Capers.
Capers and McEntee have gotten into a new conflict over a banner that was hung outside the Paterson Education Association headquarters, targeting district business administrator Richard Matthews for moving teachers’ out of the state health plan.
Matthews moved the district to a self-insurance program to close a big budget shortfall. Hundreds of teachers were denied medical procedures and their bills were not paid after the switch, according to the union.
McEntee has threatened a new ethics complaint against Capers. On Wednesday, McEntee said the union is contemplating further litigation.
“I hope that should give Mr. Capers pause, as the District may again have to divert funds to defend him rather than spend them on our city’s children,” said McEntee.
Capers is already battling another ethics complaint. James Smith, head of security at the district, filed a complaint over his trip to Arizona. A state ethics commission late last month sustained three of the four ethics charges filed against Capers.
The commission referred the case to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law. A district hired law firm is defending Capers in the case.
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