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NJEA President/Montclair Mayor/2025 gubernatorial hopeful Sean Spiller again finds himself in hot water, as explained by this recent Star-Ledger news report. Spiller has been named in a lawsuit filed by Montclair’s CFO, which claims that Spiller retaliated against her after she questioned certain business practices in Spiller’s administration. Sunlight believes it is beyond our purview to opine on these matters, which in any event have yet to be resolved by the courts. However, as our readers know, we have been highly critical of Spiller because of his blatant conflict of interest, which has made his Montclair political career and the town’s politics contentious and tumultuous. And now this.
In 2019, then-Councilman/NJEA Vice-President Spiller was removed from Montclair’s Board of School Estimates by a Superior Court because of his clear conflict of interest. Unfazed by this judicial rebuke, Spiller then ran for mayor in 2020, which was an even greater conflict of interest because at the time the mayor appointed the school board. To their credit, Montclair voters were paying attention and despite $310,000 of NJEA money and outspending his opponent 30-to-1, Spiller barely eked out a win.
Soon thereafter, Spiller’s true colors were revealed when he sided with the Montclair Education Association (and the NJEA) when they blocked the superintendent’s plan to re-open Montclair schools during COVID. As a result, Montclair schools remained closed far longer than the great majority of New Jersey school districts, with predictably negative consequences for Montclair students and families.
Confronted with Spiller’s brazenly conflicted behavior, Montclair’s citizens and parents acted. In 2021, they formed Vote Montclair and pushed for a referendum to strip Spiller of his power to appoint the school board. The measure passed by 70% to 30%. The repudiation of Spiller was loud and clear, and it was even louder and clearer when two Vote Montclair candidates were elected in the first school board election in 2022.
So the record is clear: As a Montclair politician, Spiller has been willing to put his own interests — and those of his union — above the interests of his town, and the result has been acrimony and bitter political fights.
Which brings us to the current controversy. The Star-Ledger reports that in response to the lawsuit, Spiller stated:
I stand by my record of serving the best interest of the township and our residents including asking needed questions and addressing challenges when they arise.
This would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. Spiller has manifestly NOT served the best interest of Montclair and its residents. He has willfully ignored his blatant conflict of interest in pursuit of his own political ambitions, heedless of the consequences for his town. When crucial mayoral decisions had to be made, he sided with his union over Montclair kids and families. And now, undeterred by — or perhaps because of — the multiple rebukes for his conflict of interest in Montclair, Spiller is apparently seeking the governor’s office, where his conflict of interest would be larger still.
All of which is to say that Spiller appears to be willing to do just about anything in pursuit of his own political ambitions. This casts the current allegation of retaliation in a plausible light: merely the latest in a long line of self-serving actions myopically focused on furthering Spiller’s political career.
Beware New Jersey!