District obligated to pay legal fees in ethics violation

Also at meeting: Hall of Fame coach, students of month recognized

The Board of Education is obligated to pay the legal expenses of its members facing ethics charges and civil litigation, according to board attorney Vito Gagliardi. The board members and members of the public discussed the indemnification of the defendants during last week’s monthly meeting.
Additionally, the board recognized the January students of the month and longtime football coach Ed Stinson.


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Last month the board was divided over whether to pay the legal fees for three members and a former member.
An ethics charge has been brought against Trustees Irene Sobolov, Thomas Kluepfel, Jennifer Evans, and former trustee Leon Gold. When asked about the charge, who initiated it, and the substance of the charge, the board members have said they were not at liberty to publicly disclose the details.
Under the civil indemnification statute, N.J.S.A. 18A:16-6, a school board employee may be indemnified for attorney’s fees and costs incurred defending civil actions arising out of an act or omission that took place in the course and scope of employment duties. The statute also applies to the all-volunteer school board.
Gagliardi explained this at the meeting both because of a debate at the last minute over paying board members’ legal fees, and over a new charge against a district employee.
“While the board does need to vote on these because it’s a matter of practice, of public policies, these expenses are obligations imposed by the statute,” Gagliardi said. “And we are simply acting in accordance with state law.”
At the meeting, the board approved employee indemnification for legal fees related to a civil charge for $6,281. The board would not comment on the reason for the suit.
Last month board member Peter Biancamano, who is sometimes at odds with the board majority, said, “I am well aware that our administration code says a board member fighting an ethics charge is entitled to reimbursements. But what this seems to be saying is that we are giving them a blank check for reimbursements of legal fees without knowing what those costs might be. It just seems a little early to me.”
He said last week that he had no problem with indemnification but preferred to see a dollar amount. He said he would prefer the board members brought up on ethics charges submit a final amount towards the end of their litigation because he would like the public to know how much the board is spending.
Hoboken resident and president of the Brandt Parent Consortium, Linda Kwok, said she was disheartened to hear that the board was divided on the issue.
“I’m disappointed to see the board is still playing these games and bringing this up.” Said Kwok, “This is in the New Jersey Code of law…let’s not waste time. It’s not a blank check as some members of the board have said. It’s protection, so ordinary people like myself feel comfortable to run for a volunteer position and participate in the democratic process.”

Hall of famer

Derek England, Director of Athletics at Hoboken High School, presented former Redwing Head Football Coach Ed Stinson with an award at the meeting recognizing him for his hard work and dedication to the program after he was inducted into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame in December.
“Stinson, who was a two-time State Coach of the Year, amassed an incredible 182 – 49 – 4 overall record in two stints as the Redwing Head Coach that spanned a total of 23 years,” said England. “In those years, he had two number one teams in New Jersey, the number 10 team in the nation, seven HCIAA Championships, and 14 conference championships. During his second coaching tenure here, he accumulated an unheard of 67-1 record over a six year period.”
“No player offered a scholarship for football ability was ever denied his scholarship due to poor academics.” – Ed Stinson.
England added, “Coach Stinson’s accomplishments at Hoboken High School went well beyond his record, as he had countless players go on to play collegiate football.”
Stinson thanked the district, Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson (who was not in attendance) and the board for the honor.
He said the “induction is a big deal,” but that it doesn’t honor only him but also the Hoboken school district, Hudson county, the student athletes, assistant coaches, his family, and his athlete’s families as well.
He said the induction “validates the built-for-success football program.”
He said the program “trained players to be great on the field but also be great citizens in the community and students in school.”
“No player offered a scholarship for football ability was ever denied his scholarship due to poor academics,” said Stinson.

January Students of the Month

The January students of the month were awarded with certificates during the meeting.
First grader Asami Hidalgo was student of the month at Brandt Primary School and Samuel Leong, a kindergarten student was student of the month at Calabro Primary School.
At Connors Elementary School, first grader Samayah Blanks and fourth grader Jayla Dale of Wallace Elementary School were declared students of the month.
At the Hoboken Middle School seventh grader Leo Papaneophytou was January’s student of the month, as was Hoboken High School Senior Gabriella Rico.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

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