THE RECORD: Hackensack mayor, board attorney clash over teacher

Posted by on March 31, 2017

HACKENSACK — Mayor John Labrosse and Richard Salkin, the school board attorney, clashed in a heated argument about a teacher who appears to have distributed campaign material on school time, which is a potential violation of school policy.

Labrosse confronted the board about a letter he sent to Superintendent Joseph Cicchelli requesting that Hackensack High School teacher Caseen Gaines be disciplined for sending campaign statements on school grounds during school hours.

“Mr. Gaines has not denied transmitting campaign statements to the media during the school day, when he is paid to be a teacher at Hackensack High School. He was caught red-handed sending statements to not one but two separate media outlets from his own phone at the same time he was being paid by our school district and our taxpayers.”

Labrosse, accompanied by his campaign consultant Phil Swibinski, of Vision Media, and Stephanie Von Rudenborg, his running mate on the Labrosse Team ticket, chose to attend the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night instead of the City Council meeting, taking place at the same time, to make his statement.

Both Salkin and board President Jason Nunnermacker are lawyers for the Hackensack United For Progress slate. Board Vice President Lara Rodriguez is a candidate on the ticket. Gaines is the campaign manager for the slate.

Labrosse claimed that as the legal consultant for Hackensack United For Progress, Salkin could not be trusted to give objective counsel to Cicchelli regarding Gaines. Barring Salkin’s disclosure of his involvement in the campaign, Labrosse called for his resignation.

“If you did fail to disclose your obvious conflict before advising the superintendent, sir, you should resign your position immediately,” Labrosse said to Salkin.

Salkin, visibly upset, fumbled for the microphone before Labrosse could finish his statement and was told numerous times by Nunnermacker to calm down.

“Mr. Labrosse likes to blow smoke,” Salkin said. “He doesn’t know the first thing about ethics. He doesn’t know the first thing about attorney’s responsibilities.”

The question of Gaines’ work for the campaign during school hours was first raised by the mayor’s Labrosse Team campaign earlier this month. Two campaign statements from Gaines were received by The Record and NorthJersey.com during school hours. Gaines’ daily class schedule and his record of entry and exit card swipes were obtained through an independent records request. The records place Gaines on school grounds at the time the emails were received.

“He did nothing political during the time he was teaching or supposed to be providing instruction to our children,” Nunnermacker said to Labrosse. “And that’s the end of it.”

In a previous interview, Gaines said that Cicchelli had determined he had not violated school policy for a March 9 email received by The Record at 9:15 am.

“Did you discuss this matter with Mr. Salkin?” Labrosse asked Cicchelli. “And did you ask for his legal opinion? And did he advise you of his obvious conflict of interest?”

Cicchelli did not respond.

This last dispute brought to the forefront the continuing animosity between the board and the City Council. Salkin and Nunnermacker, as well as board members Mark Stein and Daniel Carola, have been vocal opponents of the incumbent administration at several council meetings in the past. Board member Timothy Hoffman called the City Council a “disgrace” in a Twitter post last week.

Salkin, who once served as city attorney during former Mayor Jack Zisa’s administration, told Labrosse that he would side with either of the two slates, as long as it meant pushing him out. “I am active in this campaign,” Salkin said to Labrosse.

This story originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/hackensack/2017/03/29/mayor-questions-hackensack-trustees-over-high-school-teacher/99735520/

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