JERSEY CITY - The same week that Ward E City Councilman (and future mayoral contender) Steven Fulop had to explain more than $18,000 in campaign donations from a law firm with ties to Spectra Energy, an e-mail was leaked from the 2013 mayoral candidate's personal gmail account in which he invites an inner circle of school board members to what appears to be a secret meeting.
Sent under the subject heading "Cerf meeting," the May 2, 2011 e-mail from Fulop reads: "Please keep in confidence as always. We are meeting at 274 Arlington Ave. tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6 p.m. See you then."
According to one source, 274 Arlington Ave. was a vacant residential property at the time of the meeting. Chris Cerf is the acting commissioner of education for the state of New Jersey.
The e-mail was sent to Sterling Waterman, who at the time was president of the Jersey City Board of Education; Carol Lester, vice-president at the time of the meeting; Carol Harrison-Arnold and Marvin Adames, who had been elected to the board just days earlier, on April 27 - but had not been sworn in yet; Ellen Simon, founder of Parents for Progress; and Shelley Skinner, deputy director of Better Education for Kids, a school choice advocacy group. Fulop's e-mail was also sent to Leda Duif Shumbris, Mohamed Akil, and Tine Pahl.
The timing of the e-mail and Arlington Avenue meeting are significant as they came just one week after Fulop-backed candidates won control of the Board of Education. These events also took place at a time when the Board of Education was gearing up to oust Dr. Charles Epps as the superintendent of schools and conduct a national search for his successor.
School board members Suzanne Mack, Angel Valentin, and Sean Connors were not invited to the meeting.
Ever since the board majority voted last month to hire Dr. Marcia Lyles as the new superintendent Fulop has tried to deflect criticism that he worked in concert with Cerf and his staff to remove Epps and install Lyles in his place.
Last month Fulop told the Reporter that the school board is independent and he does not communicate with the trustees on a regular basis.
"Anyone who wants access to my phone records can have them with regards to this board and see I don't talk to them regularly," Fulop stated.
As for the more than $18,000 in campaign donations from attorneys who practice at DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick and Cole, Fulop told readers on Facebook last week that these donations came from individual attorneys he has known for years. The donations were returned after his campaign learned that DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick, and Cole has done lobbying work on behalf of Spectra Energy. Spectra recently received federal government approval to build a controversial high pressure natural gas pipeline through Jersey City to supply energy to ConEd customers in New York. Many Jersey City residents, especially those in Fulop's home base in Ward E, oppose the project. - E. Assata Wright