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Open Government Advocacy Project:
Two lawsuits against Plainfield Board of Education

Issue Detail:

I wanted to inform Plainfield residents of two lawsuits against the Plainfield Board of Education. I learned about these suits while checking the docket sheets at the courthouse. It is important for readers to understand that the allegations contained in these lawsuits are just that--allegations. They have not been proven by the plaintiffs and may or may not be true. Yet, lawsuits against public bodies are of legitimate public interest and concern. For one thing, both the lawsuits are being defended by the Board of Education at public or at an insurance company's expense. Also, some of the allegations claim official wrongdoing and could be proven or disproven by any citizen who wishes to make an Open Public Records Act request. For example, in paragraph 24 of her complaint, Dr. Ebler claims that "on October 19, 2009, [Executive County Superintendent] Centuolo sent a letter to [Superintendent Dr. Steve] Gallon ordering Gallon to remove [two employees that Gallon allegedly hired] from their respective administrative positions given that they were not properly certified to serve as anything other than clerks." An interested citizen who wished to verify whether this is indeed true could submit an OPRA request to the Plainfield Board of Education (or the County Superintendent's office) seeking a copy of Centuolo's October 19, 2009 letter. DR. BETH EBLER V. PLAINFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION (A copy of the lawsuit is on-line here: ) This lawsuit, which bears bears Docket No. UNN-L-1740-10, was filed on May 3, 2010 by Dr. Beth Ebler, who served as the school district's Director of Curriculum and Instruction until June 30, 2009. She alleges that she was an exemplary employee who made $134,000 per year. She claims that she became aware that Dr. Steve Gallon, the Superintendent of Schools hired in 2008, "may not have been properly certified at the time under New Jersey to serve as a superintendent." On March 9, 2008, Ebler claims to have written to the Commissioner of Education "expressing concerns regarding Dr. Gallon's qualifications and other issues." Some of the "other issues" allegedly complained about in Ebler's letter were "the practice of Board of Education members securing jobs for friends and family, the elimination of key personnel while maintaining other personnel in questionable assignments, and the district's failure to have a coherent plan to satisfy state monitoring requirements." She claims that Gallon then hired some of his former coworkers even though they "all lacked proper certification to serve in the positions for which they were hired." Ebler claims that when she came back from vacation on August 8, 2008, all her belongings had been removed from her office and that another employee had taken control of her office. She also alleges that her personal belongings and computer files had been searched. She alleges that she received a notice of nonrenewal on May 4, 2009, that claimed that she was being let go for reasons of economy and efficiency. Pretrial discovery in Dr. Ebler's lawsuit is due to be completed by September 7, 2011. She is represented by Attorney David Nash of Monroe Township. MARY C. TAFUR V. PLAINFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION ET AL. (A copy of the lawsuit is on-line here: ) This lawsuit was originally filed in Middlesex County under Docket No. MID-L-3005-09 and was later transferred to Union County under Docket No. UNN-L-2479-09. The court has set a deadline of August 22, 2010 for all pretrial discovery to be completed, so it's likely that in the next couple of months, the case will either be tried or settle. Tafur alleges that she began serving as a bus driver in 1999 and served full time as a bus driver and a custodian until she was terminated on June 30, 2008. She claims that in starting in 2005, a male bus driver started sexually harassing her and claiming that she was having an affair. She claims that she complained to Margaret O'Keeffe, who is presumably a supervisor, but that O'Keeffe simply told her to ignore the comments. She further alleges that in early 2008 this male bus driver squeezed a different female co-worker's nipple "to the point where it caused her pain." When Tafur asked Ms. O'Keeffe to do something about the male coworker, she claims that O'Keeffe did nothing. Tafur further alleges that in 2008 she went out for a a month and half leave due to a death in her family, and that when she came back to work she was demoted. She claims that Ms. O'Keeffe told her that her absence "hurt the department" and that she "stirs up coworkers." She claims that her contract was not renewed for the 2008-09 school year. Tafur, who is suing for damages of an unspecified amount, is res presented by Attorney Ronald J. Wronko of Montclair. John Paff, Chairman New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project Somerset, New Jersey




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