One of the tasks designated to Secaucus Board of Education Board Secretary Edward Walkiewicz is to take down the rough draft of town education decision history by writing down the minutes of every board meeting. However, a perceived mishandling of these minutes after a controversial Nov. 2006 Board of Education has led to Walkiewicz facing questions from board members and administration critics alike.
Wrong signature, strong words
The roots of Walkiewicz's woes stem from an incident at the Nov. 30 Secaucus Board of Education meeting. At that meeting, Board President Susan Pirro admitted that she had signed a political flyer for board member Mark Bruscino. The flyer was a piece of campaign literature that expressed support for the Elwell Team slate running in the Nov. 2006 Town Council election.
The moments leading up to the admission were highly contentious, with Secaucus resident George Broemmer and his ally Bob Campanella strongly advocating the resignation of all those who signed the flyer, which Campanella claimed was a "dangerous precedent" in town politics. Broemmer, meanwhile, went so far as to call those board members who signed the flyer "prostitutes," a word which he later apologized for.
Approximately 30 minutes of the nearly hour long meeting were spent on accusations and counteraccusations between certain board members and their critics.
Next meeting, lost time
Despite all of the fireworks, there were more sparks to come. At the subsequent Dec. 21 Board of Education meeting, it was quickly discovered that none of the details pertaining to the signature controversy were included in the official minutes of the November meeting.
Last week, Walkiewicz explained his decision not to include the events surrounding the signature controversy in the official minutes as a simple matter of procedure.
"The minutes are supposed to reflect the actions of the board, such as a vote on a matter before the board," he said. "I don't record the statements of every board member, because the minutes would be 50 pages long. I've been doing this for nine years in Secaucus, and my minutes are highly consistent and complete."
Broemmer begs to differ
George Broemmer seemed less than satisfied with Walkiewicz's explanation.
"I can only comment on the fact that the board secretary said that what he did was no deviation from what he had done in the past," he said. "I really wouldn't want to speculate as to why the signature debate wasn't included."
Broemmer thinks that the minutes procedure for Board of Education meetings should now change altogether.
"I think that because of the fact that the Town Council and the school board in particular don't do much to promote public participation, maybe the town cable Channel 34 should be used to record and play school board meetings in order to spur more interest in the meetings," he said. "I think that right now, the board is happy that people don't show up to the meetings."
Broemmer focused on one particular comment at the last Board of Education meeting that added to his desire to see the meetings recorded.
"When Mr. [Tom] Troyer introduced an amendment to the minutes that included the signature comments, Mr. [William] Millevoi asked, 'Do we have proof?' I don't know exactly what he meant by that. Did he mean that the newspapers that reported this didn't report the facts? I don't how to take that."
Troyer tacks on a letter
Longtime Board of Education member Troyer confirmed Broemmer's statement about attempting to append a letter to the meeting minutes.
"I didn't believe that the minutes of that meeting reflected the serious implications that could result from this," he said. "I actually wanted the board to vote down accepting the minutes, but they didn't do that. At the upcoming Jan. 25 meeting, I'll see if they included it. I don't see any reason why they won't."
Troyer agreed with Broemmer about recording future Board of Education meetings.
"I always thought that they should do that," he said. "For now, the minutes are very important. Right now, it's like what happened never happened. When we look back, we say 'check the record'. If we go back to the record, there is no record of this. That's the thing that annoys me."
Political observers in Secaucus are wondering if Troyer will ultimately file an ethics complaint against Pirro. Troyer supplied an answer to this question.
"If that letter is not in the record, then I'll bring charges," he said. "There's no question about it. I want that letter to be a matter of record."