Did someone with ties to a local teachers’ union leak personal e-mails to a political campaign?
Union officials and dozens of teachers believe that is the case after several current and former members of the Jersey City Education Association (JCEA) received an e-mailed campaign pitch from mayoral candidate Steven Fulop. The e-mails were sent to the teachers’ personal e-mail accounts.
According to JCEA president Ron Greco, on April 2 he received complaints from 78 current and retired members asking him why their personal e-mail addresses were shared with Fulop. Greco said he was caught off-guard by the onslaught of complaints.
“Some retired folks who live out of town have never heard of Mr. Fulop. Many active members were annoyed that their e-mails were used to send political information to them,” Greco said last week. “There are four presidents under the JCEA umbrella. None of us provided e-mail addresses of either active or retired members to any of the mayoral candidates. The JCEA has a policy that we do not give out members’ personal information to anyone.”
“We explained it’s our policy not to give out this info.” – Ron Greco
The e-mails the teachers received from the Fulop campaign were similar in content to an open letter to teachers the candidate released several weeks ago, which some teachers may not have seen.
“Nothing we talk about in this mayoral campaign is more important than the Jersey City school system. Education is the backbone of any plan for a prosperous future,” Fulop wrote in the campaign letter sent to teachers last week. “As mayor, I will support our teachers and public school employees. They deserve that. We trust our city's children with them. Education is an area in which Mayor Healy and I have disagreed. He has been a proponent of vouchers, while I have adamantly opposed any sort of privatization…I believe privatization should have no place in our public school structure.”
For the past year, Fulop and his allies on the Jersey City Board of Education have been fighting allegations that they support efforts to privatize some aspects of the public school system. This e-mail to the JCEA membership appears to be an attempt to mitigate those allegations.
Last week, Fulop told the Reporter that the e-mail to the membership was an effort to present himself and his record, which he believes have been distorted by his adversaries. (Some have argued that the mayoral candidate should have used a paid campaign ad or a political mailer to accomplish this goal.)
When asked directly who supplied him with the e-mail addresses, Fulop declined to answer the question.
“We will fight lies in every avenue that we can and will not tolerate misinformation or lies to protect the status quo,” Fulop stated. “We make no apologies.”
Still, Greco and the membership want to know how the candidate was able to circumvent the unions’ own rules and access personal e-mail information.
“I was never contacted by anyone from the Fulop campaign for any information on members,” Greco said last week. “A teacher [volunteering] for the Fulop campaign appeared at the JCEA office three times requesting home addresses and e-mail addresses of members for Mr. Fulop. We explained it’s our policy not to give out this info.”
Greco added that Fulop has also sent e-mails to JCEA executive board members.
“Currently, we are looking into who could have provided the Fulop camp with our members’ information,” Greco said, adding that it is possible that a former union official who has ties to Fulop accessed the e-mail accounts and leaked them to the campaign.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.