Foody removed from committee School board president takes him from committee for breach of confidentiality

| 11 Oct 2012 | 01:12

By Patricia Keller

— School board President Dave Richards has removed Trustee Jim Foody from the Budget and Finance Committee after “leaking confidential information.”
Richards made the announcement at the Sept. 27 board of education meeting.
“He was removed for leaking confidential information, as explained on September 27,” said Richards. “He knows what he did, he said what he did, and he had an opportunity to bring it up but he never brought it up at the meeting. He leaked confidential information. He knows what he did, so I'm not going to get into it.”
Foody told the Messenger this stemmed from a discussion the board had about sending out requests for proposals for a new board attorney. He contacted a firm on his own. He said the matter was discussed at the board's retreat in August and he was told by the New Jersey School Boards Association that what he did was wrong. “But they said no harm was done,” said Foody.
The board ultimately approved rehiring its current legal representation, the law firm of Schenck, Price, Smith & King, LLP, of Florham Park, for general counsel legal services.

Can a board member be removed from a committee?

The West Milford Board of Education operates in a committee format.
Separate committees are formed to address specific matters relating to the operation of the School District and then make recommendations to be voted on by the entire board.
The president of the board is empowered to establish committees for Education, Personnel/Student Affairs, Budget & Finance, Transportation, Operations and Capital Improvements, Negotiations, Policy, and Special Committees/And Or Liaison.
Committees are formed via delegation by the board president who also holds the power to remove trustees from committees at any time with or without cause, according to the resolution that gives that power. Richards said it is a privilege to serve on a board committee, not a right or a requirement.

Options to consider

Richards said he received complaints about Foody from other board members and felt he had to do something about it.
“I had complaints from board members about what he did and what could we do about it, so I looked into it,” said Richards.
He said he had choices: they could do nothing, file a formal ethics violation complaint with the state, or remove Foody from the committee. Richards said after consulting with the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) on the matter, and not considering ignoring it as a viable option, he made the decision to remove Foody from the committee in lieu of the board filing a formal complaint against Foody with the state.

Costly decisions

The school board has dealt with ethics violations in the past. Recently dismissed ethics charges filed two years ago against current board Vice President Wayne Gottlieb by former Trustee John Aiello played a large role in helping Richards make his decision, he said.
That case, which ended in dismissal of the charges, cost the district $11,000 in legal fees.
Richards said the charges that were brought against Gottlieb were “frivolous.”
He said by law, any elected official is protected by a requirement that they be provided with legal representation; which is ultimately paid for by the taxpayers.
“I'm not going to go file a complaint against Foody and have to pay a lawyer,” said Richards. “I'm not going to have taxpayers pay; it's a joke, it's a waste of time.”
Richards said leaking confidential information is a serious matter, and something needed to be done to address it.
He decided to remove Foody from the committee, as was within his authority and was an option from NJSBA.

Not the first time

Richards commented that this is the second time Foody has been removed from a committee. He said the first time was during Foody's first year on the board when he and Aiello were removed from the Personnel Committee for doing what Richards described as “the same thing.”
Foody is now not a member of any committee.