JERSEY CITY AND BEYOND — An e-mail that Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop wrote last year regarding school board issues, which was leaked and then published in the Jersey City Reporter over the weekend, has drawn criticism for the councilman and 2013 mayoral candidate.
To see the item that ran over the weekend, go to the lower right column of this page and scroll down to the most commented stories.
Over the weekend, Fulop responded to questions about transparency in a Jersey City schools Yahoo group.
>Timing of Cerf Meeting – this is an email from May 2011 (over a year ago) right after the board majority flipped. I actually think it was the last time and this email speaks to my point that if detractors can grasp at straws pointing to May 2011 as the evidence of conspiracy either no other meetings are happening or I am just not inviting anyone. I am sure the conspiracies will say I am meeting with the DOE regularly but as I said before I urge you to OPRA them or me and you can see that is not the case. This is May 2011
> Why the meeting with the State – As I always have said education is the backbone of what I am doing for the next 4 years and nobody should be surprised that the state is part of the conversation as they have had control of the JC system for 23 years and they pay 2/3 of the budget.
> What was discussed – I and the newly elected board members were trying to convince Cerf that there is a sentiment of change in JC and there is a new board majority and record voter turnouts and that the potential for education progress in JC was huge. Not an easy lift
> What was needed from the state – They needed to sign a pay waiver for Epps and be comfortable that the board was going to truly do a national search and not revert back to politics of just hiring a friendly face.
> Why was I there – For better or for worst I am unfortunately tied to this as you can see from the dialogue here and at the board meetings.
> Why was Shelley Skinner there and Ellen Simon and some of the parents there – I don’t have a relationship with Cerf nor did any of the board members. Shelley had the ability to help get on his radar screen and Ellen was there with some of the other parents to advocate for the fact that there was parent engagement
> Why was the location chosen – It was someone who volunteered to host it in their house is all it was.
> What is the comment on Spectra – I don’t think one could find a more fierce opponent from day one on Spectra. Whether it was getting more intervenors than anyone, testifying at NJT, or being a resource for Nogaspipeline my record is perfect on this and I think most involved would say that. Our campaign team goes above and beyond on campaign contributions more than ANYONE IN THE STATE OF NJ.. and we always take the most conservative route. So While Decottis is a firm I have known for a better part of a decade and there was no legal conflict, we proactively (before any news story or any public comment) returned their check when we learned one of their clients was spectra. Our campaign has returned more than $60,000 in contributions after vetting to different donors. This is the MOST OF ANYONE in the state and I think it speaks to the quality of the campaign
> Hope that clarifies!
Fulop was then asked by a newsgroup member about the apparent lack of transparency, and then replied in a new email:
I can tell you personally, I meet with public officials every single day often to make a pitch on a wide variety of issues from port authority, to state, to animal issues.. you name it and this was no different. People can say to any meeting I have that there is a deal or conspiracy meeting but there is no factual basis for any of it â€” people can say what they want and that is the world we live in. On education, I fully recognize what people will say this and that but if you weighed the pros and the cons of progress vs nothing I felt the potential for progress with a pitch was better as the state still controls and funds JC (more on this later in note).
> Every meeting with any public figure I try to have a city focused agenda and in this case it was more a plea to say to the state that there is reason to be optimistic on what is happening in JC and that there is prospects for change. Most of the time the meetings I have are smaller groups but in this case with a slightly larger group I was trying to avoid rumors and conspiracy theories with the plea for confidentiality (obviously I failed).
> You/I know eachother well and I think you will acknowledge that the easiest route for me was do nothing here. Clearly, I have spent a tremendous amount of political capital on making sure that this school system charts a new course and I truthfully have zero regrets even with stuff like this. The pitch was one of JC directionally improving and the state should trust that the city is ripe with parent involvement and professionals being elected for a new route, you cant make that pitch in a full board meeting and I think the facts point to that over the last few months of the super search with certain groups going to great lengths to protect personal special interests.
> This was the only meeting I have ever had with Cerf and the reality is that it was crucial to actually point to what is possible here. This pitch was prob the most important I have had in 7 years on the council to actually say to the state, not everyone accepts mediocrity and we have evidence to prove it.
> Finally, it is not a rented house somewhere so let’s move past that nonsense it is a house owned by a volunteer and he lives there.