Monday, March 16, 2015

Question for Deptford residents: Did the school board vote to hire a member's sister's live-in fiance?


March 24, 2015 Update:  In response to my OPRA request, the Deptford School District provided me with a September 25, 2013 advisory opinion by the New Jersey School Ethics Commission holding that no statute prevented Rachel Green from participating in employment matters related to her sister's fiance.  The opinion is on-line here.

 March 17, 2015 Update: I spoke with Rachel Green a few moments ago.  She stated that the school employee married to her sister is not Steven Senick.  If Green's statement is accurate, then Senick is not the person who Berglund referred to in paragraphs 20 to 30 of his complaint.
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Paragraphs 20 to 30 of Walter Berglund's lawsuit against the Deptford Board of Education (Federal case no. 1:14-cv-01972, on line here) allege that in July 2012, the school board gave a full time position to a person who "resides with and is engaged to be married to the sister of one of [Board of Education members Stacy Gray, Rachel Green or Linda Rosser]."   The allegations, which are not proven, go on to say that this hire was a terrible employee and said things like "I'm just here to collect a paycheck" because "he has nothing to worry about because of his connections to a Board Member."

I submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to Business Administrator Michael Griggel for the name of this employee.  In his response, on-line here, Mr. Griggel identified him as Steven Senick.  But, Mr. Griggel hedged a bit by saying that my OPRA has "deficiencies" and should not be taken as "an interpretation of any allegation" in Mr. Berglund's lawsuit.

So, I am left with knowing for sure that Steven Senick served as a night custodian for the school district starting on July 16, 2012 until he was terminated from that position on February 25, 2015.  Although he seems to be same person referred to by Mr. Berglund in his yet-to-be-proven lawsuit allegations, I am not exactly sure.

My concern is that if Senick was, as alleged in Berglund's complaint, living with and engaged to be married to the sister of an elected school board member at the time of his hiring, that may be something that should have been disclosed when the school board voted to hire Senick at its July 23, 2012 meeting.  This is especially true if Senick was engaged to Rachel Green's sister, because Green voted in favor of hiring Senick (I don't believe that Gray or Rosser served on the Board until later).

So, I ask that people who live in Deptford please e-mail me at paff@pobox.com if they know any answers to the following questions (those who feel uncomfortable e-mailing may send an anonymous response to me at P.O. Box 5424, Somerset, NJ 08875):
1. Was Senick living with and/or engaged to be married to the sister of any school board member in July 2012?
2. If so, which school board member?
3. Where is there a publicly available document that confirms any answers to 1 and 2 above?
Disclaimer: I intend nothing here to disparage Mr. Senick or anyone else.  I'm just trying to find out if there is any familial connection between Mr. Senick and any Board member that ought to have been publicly disclosed at the time of Mr. Senick's July 2012 hiring.