BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2, MonroeNow, Oct 15, 2019
MONROE – Fallout from a September special meeting appointing a new trustee spilled over to the school board meeting in October with accusations of favoritism and disrespecting the public.
Betty Saborido lodged accusations during the October gathering, some of which she and others raised at the Sept. 24 meeting. She also reignited her displeasure about the disappearance of her application to fill the vacant school board seat and treatment of frequent meeting attendee Chrissy Skurbe, among other issues.
At the Sept. 24 meeting, the school board only interviewed and appointed Lou Masters to fill a vacant seat that was created when Ken Chiarella resigned in August due to health reasons.
“You serve the public and as such as you very well know you’re subject to being scrutinized and criticized,” Saborido said. “At the end of the last meeting, a member of the public and taxpayer, Mrs. Skurbe, was verbally attacked by members of the board of ed.”
Related: Monroe school board appoints new member as controversy erupts
Though school board meetings are video recorded, the incident Saborido addressed happened after the forum when the recording stopped.
Skurbe confirmed the incident on Friday, which she said eventually resulted in police being called to the meeting room. In Skurbe’s account, some board members were upset that she was live-streaming the meeting, and challenged her right to take a video record with her cell phone.
Skurbe said she was not live-streaming the meeting, but did take a video of Saborido’s comments.
New Jersey allows community members and the press to video record public meetings, though depending on the method, restrictions may apply or require advance approval.
Board President Kathy Kolupanowich could not be reached for comment.
Saborido also addressed comments Lou Masters made at the Sept. 24 meeting, when he was appointed to the school board, saying that he “chose to personally attack me [and] I don’t take well to that.”
During that meeting, Masters said “I’m guessing the person that came up before must’ve sent it certified mail if they wanted to make sure that, that it was received, right, and they’d have proof or did they just put it in the mail and hope for the best? Again, if it’s that important to you, make sure it happens. Don’t depend on everybody else and then just arbitrarily say it’s your fault or somebody else’s fault. Take responsibility for your actions.”
Masters’ sent his application a few hours before the 3 p.m. Sept. 20 deadline via email to Business Administrator and Board Secretary Michael Gorski and received confirmation 11 minutes later, according to his account. The board’s process for applying for the position required applications sent via mail, which was publicized in the required legal notice.
“I came up at the last meeting to voice my disappointment at not being interviewed and mentioned that it was concerning to me that my application wasn’t received and the only candidate that would be interviewed was a candidate that had already been endorsed for the upcoming election by several board members,” Saborido said.
In suggesting favoritism, Saborido claimed, that in the past, the board president reprimanded audience members for inappropriate comments to board members, but at the Sept. 24 meeting Kolupanowich took the step to shutdown trustee Peter Tufano in an exchange with Masters during the interview process.
“You need to understand that the public is taking notice of this division on the board and favoritism to the new board member,” she said.
Though Kolupanowich did not address any of Saborido’s claims, she did refute accusations Chiarella allegedly made on social media in a statement at the end of the meeting.
Though MonroeNow.com has not been able to verify the social media claims, Kolupanowich suggested they questioned the ethics of certain board members.
“Most importantly, these board members take their ethical obligations extremely seriously and they comply with the code of ethics for school members,” she said.
She further added that the unnamed members have been “subjected to meritless ethics complaints in the past year, all of which were summarily dismissed as a matter of law. I will not address all of Mr. Chiarella’s statements at this time. I want to be clear that my decision to not address each of his statements on social media does not indicate that any of these statements have any truth to them.”
She added: “Notwithstanding the foregoing, Mr. Chiarella’s statement that six members of the Board of Education conducted an illegal meeting and violated their ethical obligations as Board of Education members is patently false and defamatory.”