Monday, April 4, 2011

Peter Biancamano's School Board Race Dilemma - Editorial

Peter Biancamano- The Sandwich King?

Peter Biancamano's School Board Race Dilemma - by the Hoboken Journal

Peter Biancamano has a problem. He wants to win the Hoboken BOE election and he has a decision on whether or not to run with Carmelo Garcia and Frances Rhodes-Kearns. Now that John Madigan has dropped out, the lure of running on a slate could essentially make this a head to head match up with Kids First aside from Patricia Waiters still being in the race.

The problem for Peter is that if he goes with this slate as reported in other news sources he will be with a group of people who have played games with the rules in the past or flat out disregarded them. He could be perceived as a Frank "Pupie" Raia Puppet which unfortunately is the perception already given his youth and long time associated with the man responsible for the stupidest Public Park in the history of Hoboken by ShopRite. If Carmelo and Frank once again play loose with the rules Peter could be guilty by association and since he works for a media company that could be a big issue for him and his career at a well known media company.

Personally, I think Peter is a decent guy but he is about to make a deal with the devil and soil his reputation as a reformer. Or perhaps he really never was a reformer anyway but he did show his Independence from the Mother of all Russo's Michelle in the 2010 Democratic Committee when he got called a traitor and far worse from the foul mouthed, prone to asault, and unhinged Lane Bajardi for simply voting his conscience and supporting Zimmer's choice of Ravi Bhalla for Democratic Chair over the politically washed up Ines Garcia-Keim. How he decides to handle this run for BOE could effect his interaction with his allies on the Hoboken Democratic Comittee and this has already stirred up a lot of behind the scenes discussion.

First things first, Kids First is playing by the ELEC Rules so far:

Kids First has filed their initial ELEC paperwork. All other candidates have not and it is past the deadline.

Confirming link on NJ ELEC website:

Carmelo Garcia's Hoboken BOE legacy:

Here is a brief rundown on Carmelo Garcia who I have no personal animus towards but have these legitimate concerns over his candidacy given the following history of his activity on the Hoboken School Board. It is not the greatest legacy from the perspective a a real taxpayer or a parent who wants the money spent on the children and not favored law firms:
  •  Carmelo has not filed his ELEC reports and has not even yet filed a D-1 as of 4-3-2011, well past the deadline. 
          See for yourself on the ELECs:
  • He had a portion of his kick off in the Hoboken Public Library. If Dawn Zimmer held such a political event at City Hall (she wouldn't) all of her detractors would be up in arms.
  • He has been walking around with cards with no paid for language on them. (perhaps this printing could be below the threshold for reporting but somehow I doubt it).
  • His prior ELEC reports read like a data spreadsheet of voter fraud- and pay to play violations. Almost 50k in the 2005 BOE election with a 5k in donations by Scarinscki/Hollenbeck, etc.; a great example of payola.
  • He had one of his friends in the district link a story in the Hoboken BOE website to his re-elect Carmelo Facebook page.
  • He is possibly still in litigation with Amibile for not paying off his last campaign from 2008.
  • Some feel him being the head of the HHA creates conflicts with his ablility to service the Housing Authority by merely being on the School Board in certain situations.
  • Carmelo's poor attendance record at BOE meetings:
  1. Carmelo Garcia missed the budget presentation meeting.
  2. He missed 3 out of 10 meetings for the current school year.
  3. He missed 3/4 closed session meetings and votes.
  4. He came late almost all of the time he attended BOE meetings and only showed up on time once. 
  • Carmelo also moonlights for Freeholder Anthony "Stick" Romano for $3,000 a year. Is that why he can't make BOE meetings sometimes?  Delivering cakes for "Stick"? You can't make this stuff up!

Here is a letter from Board member Theresa Minutillo on the 2005 School Board Election on Carmelo Garcia and Frances-Rhodes Kearns that shows clear examples of payola and putting the children of Hoboken behind well monied interests:

"On June 6th, I filed a formal complaint with the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission against Garcia/Raslowsky/Rhodes-Kearns for not filing their 20-day post-election report for their April 19th school board campaign. It is with little surprise that on June 9th their reports were finally received, though one month late and incomplete. It is clear why this information was not reported before the Mayor's run-off on june 14th, this being the Mayor’s backed slate of candidates. For example, the report does not list the addresses of any of the contributors, nor does it list the names and amounts paid to “campaign workers”. But let’s not fret, the companies that contributed to this race are easy to track down, most of them were “rewarded” with no-bid Board of Ed contracts on May 24th after they contributed to the campaign of Garcia/Raslowsky/Rhodes-Kearns. Some already have no-bid contracts with the schools and/or the city, and some are named in a lawsuit filed by POG (People for Open Government) for violating the pay-to-play ordinance in our Mayoral election. Is it any wonder that we've run into so many obstacles trying to get a vote on a pay-to-play referendum at the School Board.

If we take a look at the $20,530 in contributions that were received from 11 sources, four firms each contributed $2,500 for a total of $10,000 and were “rewarded” on May 24th with $310,000 in no-bid contracts for the 2005-6 School Year. (Not a bad return on their investment). You know the names of these firms; Florio Sarkisian and Kenny, Scarinci and Hollenbeck, Garbarini and Co., Joe Ryglicki, because most of these firms also hold city contracts. The names of the other firms that contributed are URSA Development ($1000), Iron State Development ($1000), PMK ($2500), Business and Governmental Insurance ($2500), Albert Sammartino and Co. ($2500), Krivit and Krivit ($530) and Frank Raia ($500).

Here is a sample of large donations from the 2005 Hoboken BOE Election:

Under pay-to-play guidelines, businesses who hold no-bid contracts are forbidden from donating money to political candidates or parties. Those wishing to win no-bid contracts are forbidden from donating more than $400 within two years of the contract award. Isn’t it about time that we had the same kind of checks and balances at the Board of Education to dispel the appearance of impropriety? Consider the importance businesses give to the make-up of our school boards and keep note of the amount of money being spent by candidates for volunteer positions."

- Theresa Minutillo Kids First 2005

Another problem with Peter Biacamano being on the slate is what Frances Rhode's-Kearns did with respect to the contract of Dr. Anthony Petrosino, hired by the previous Hoboken BOE to develop curriculum for the Hoboken Schools under the direction of former Hoboken Superintendent Jack Raslowsky in 2009.

Here are some highlights of the contract:

1) Dr. Petrosino's primary attention should be devoted to the district but acknowledges that he is a fully tenured professor employed by the University of Texas and may be required to complete outside duties from time to time. One day working notice was specified in the contract to give notice when these situations were to arise.
2) Salary $144,900 per year.
3) Benefits Medical, Prescription, Dental, Vision as per collective bargaining agreement
4) 5 weeks vacation.
5) 15 sick days.
6) 3 personal days.
7) And finally the big loophole: Professional days in which to attend his obligations at the University of Texas. No limit of these days is specified and there is no provision in the contract to adjust salary if those days were to exceed a certain threshold.

This contract was signed 4/7/2009 by Frances Rhodes-Kearns BOE President at the time exactly two weeks before the April 21, 2009 BOE election won by the Kid's First slate of Minutillo, Sullivan, and McAllister.  Carmelo Garcia also voted to approve it.

The contract also is one year in duration with a 120 day notification and auto renewal clause in which the Board can terminate with or without cause. I look at it as a 120 days worth of salary and benefits that have to be paid out by the Board when they want to go in a new direction, or in corporate parlance a mini poison pill.

The question that comes to me first is how many days did Dr. Petrosino spend working on Hoboken vs. the University of Texas? The second question that comes to mind is why was this contract signed so late in the year when the approval to hire had been done about 9 months before? This contract and the process it was done by stinks to the high heavens. Note: This has nothing to do with Dr. Petrosino's qualifications and there is still a lawsuit outstanding on this mess Fran helped create.

Final comment: So Peter Biancamano has a choice to make with repsect to the BOE (if he hasn't already made it) and he should very carefull to think not only about what side of the fence he is truly on politically, but what impact this would have on his career being associated now with Frank Raia after the alleged massive vote by mail vote buying fraud for Tim Occhipinti in 2010 in which Frank was again allegedly a key part. This could impact far more than just his political aspriations. As a first time candidate, is he really sure he wants to be associated with this legacy? ◦