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About three years ago, the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA), which is responsible for building and maintaining facilities in Abbott districts (now called “SDA” districts) became embroiled in twin scandals. First, news broke that the agency had wasted $12 billion dollars in taxpayer money. Second, the new SDA Chief, Lizette Polanco-Delgado, a former union official and vice president of the Democratic State Committee whom Gov. Murphy chose in summer 2018, was fired after a nepotism scandal: immediately after taking charge, she abruptly fired 26 staff members, many of whom had served for years under both Democratic and Republican Administrations. She then hired 33 new staffers, some at atypically high salaries; at least half were friends and relatives.
From NJ Ed Report’s coverage:
One new hire was the mother of Delgado-Polanco’s grandson and another was her second cousin. One was Cory LeDet, the husband of her close friend Kellie LeDet. Cory LeDet was hired to be Deputy Director of the SDA’s “Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise” Department, a position that had never existed before. His previous experience was as a shop foreman for a car dealership.
Today Dustin Racioppi of North Jersey Media reports that the SDA, now under new leadership, has agreed to settle a lawsuit pressed by Aaron Goss, who was included in the mass firing. The SDA will pay him $350,000, bringing the total of three settlement payments to $900,000. At least one of case is still pending.
Goss says another SDA leader, Manny Da Silver, discriminated against him because he’s Black. Da Silver commented that he was surprised a SDA staffer, Steve Miller, was Black because “Miller isn’t a Black name.” When Goss told Da Silva this was a racist comment, Da Silva “used profanity and complained he couldn’t joke around” with Goss.
In the aftermath of the SDA mess, then-Senate President Steve Sweeney said he wouldn’t agree to replenish the agency’s coffers and Gov. Murphy said it’s “still an open question as to what the future looks like.”
Indeed, “low-income NJ kids sit in school buildings with leaky roofs on this rainy day.”
(Photo of Polanco-Delgado courtesy of Press of Atlantic City)