15 Sep 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by nrdavispeace
Patch Instagram photo by nrdavispeace

Retiring School Board Member Reacts to Strumolo Letter

If you have an opinion to share with the people of Parsippany, send your Letter to the Editor to natalie.davis@patch.com

Retiring School Board Member Reacts to Strumolo Letter

I'm writing in response to what I see as the final straw of intolerable behavior by my fellow board member, Michael Strumolo.

Once again he has chosen to ignore the simplest of regulations and codes that members of the Board of Education are required to operate under. In complete disregard of our code of ethics, he has again written an opinion piece without the required disclaimer that he is not speaking on behalf of anyone other then himself. 

I will start my opinion piece by letting you know that there is only one member of the Board of Education that has the authority to speak on behalf of the board and it is not Mike Strumolo, nor is it me. I do not speak for the Board of Education and all statements contained within this letter are my own opinions and perspectives.  

Mike Strumolo asks, "Do you believe" and I can honestly answer: not one single word that comes out of his mouth.

Here is the list of reasons why:

Mike Strumolo has spent his entire tenure on the Board of Education trying to seek revenge against and disparage anyone who was involved in the decision or actions that resulted in the loss of the bus repair contract held by his garage in the years just prior to his election. He has systematically launched assaults on any employee or board member involved in the process that changed the bid specifications to require that the garage rendering repairs must be certified and have the ample infrastructure to do the repairs appropriately. His garage no longer qualified once those changes were made.

I sat on the Transportation Committee during that time and the committee became aware of several areas of service performed by Mike Strumolo that were not in compliance with our standards for safety and quality, as well as billing discrepancies. The safety of the children on our buses is the highest priority and he was no longer able to meet those specifications, and he no longer had the confidence of the board. 

Here is just the tip of the iceberg of what I've seen that can be easily confirmed by many other witnesses: While on the BOE, Mike Strumolo made multiple phone calls to fellow board members to try to have special privilege applied to his own son in our schools. He requested unethical intervention that would have been at the expense of, and hurt, another child while providing benefit to his own, but thankfully everyone Mike contacted refused to have anything to do with his offensive request. 

Mike Strumolo submitted an application for employment to the district on behalf of a friend, but the applicant was not hired. In direct violation of the Code of Ethics Mike Strumolo then picked up the phone to initiate a three-way phone call between our Director of Personnel and the applicant's father in an attempt to get the applicant hired. Mike Strumolo is the only board member to try to actually use his position and exhibit undue influence on the administration to hire a specific person. Other board members may have qualified family members employed by the district but all were hired prior to the current nepotism regulations and policies; Mike Strumolo is the only board member who has tried to use his position while on the board to influence district hiring despite the regulation and while it is in force. 

Mike Strumolo orchestrated a private meeting with the district auditor and three other board members, in advance of a board meeting and without the knowledge of anyone else on the board, to attempt to gather information to contradict a recommendation about district funds that was being made by the superintendent that same evening. The auditor supported the superintendent's recommendation and the board approved the motion that evening. Unfortunately for the auditor, Mike Strumolo's secret meeting cost him his job.  Mike Strumolo called a meeting to try to get private information that the rest of the board didn't have but it didn't work out that way. Mike stills sits on the board, but the auditor is now gone thanks to Mike Strumolo's secret meeting. 

Mike Strumolo has made repeated, unfounded accusations against a district employee that falls under multiple protected classes and who has been consistently recommended for continued employ by the administration. I believe this employee was involved in providing information that came to the board that ultimately lead to the loss of Mike Strumolo's bus repair contract and that is why he has been the ready target of untrue accusations by Mike Strumolo in an attempt to have this employee fired. 

While at a public meeting, Mike Strumolo tried to use his position to withhold payment of a bill to the vendor that had provided information to the prior Transportation Committee about the inappropriate bus repairs rendered by Mike Strumolo's garage and who was a potential witness in a lawsuit filed against him. Mike falsely stated that this vendor had a lawsuit against the district to gather support to withhold payment. Thankfully the administration corrected Mike's false accusation and the board did not support his attempt to withhold payment and thus avoided the legal implications of Mike Strumolo's attempt to use the district to further his own personal needs and agenda. 

Mike Strumolo recently read closed session minutes about the hiring of Judge Gary Stein into the public record. The public heard that there was a recommendation to have Judge Stein serve as a mediator to help resolve some board issues but what the public doesn't know is that Mike Strumolo withheld the background information surrounding that closed session. Now that it is public record, I can share the other details. 

It was brought to the board's attention that Mike Strumolo had taken it upon himself to contact our district attorney directly even though he had already been told that the lawyer would be called by the appropriate contact person regarding an employee contract question. State regulations mandate that there are specific people within a school district designated and approved to contact the attorney to avoid unauthorized billable hours and Mike Strumolo is not one of them.

You might think that would be an easy situation to resolve by simply reminding the board member that they should not have done that but the problem was that Mike denied calling our attorney. That put the rest of us in a very difficult position because it was obvious that someone was not being truthful. Since there were some important decisions that might have to be made regarding continuing services and expenses, we felt it was important to get to the truth of the matter. We decided that utilizing an objective party to investigate the situation was the best way to go. Most of us decided that we would not be party to covering something like this up so we sought an outside opinion.

During the closed session discussions Mike Strumolo became irate and sprang from his chair, yelling accusations and hurling threats at the administration and various board members and then he stormed out. The next we knew he was quoted on Patch with an offensive assault on the superintendent and the board. Mike Strumolo was trying to manipulate the public with misleading information. His behavior was extremely inappropriate but instead of the public learning the truth about Mike, he went to the public with an attempt to garner undue support. Since I have been the victim of Mike Strumolo's endless threats and his unrelenting attempts to bully, I can honestly tell you that not a single item claimed by Mike in that Patch article was true but it served his purpose well. 

Mike Strumolo recently demanded to see some emails that have been requested through an OPRA request. He decided that because he is a board member he should be entitled to unfettered access to any and all emails that pass through the district server regardless of their OPRA status. When the district attorney told him that was not the case and that he could only have access to emails if they met the OPRA requirements, he said he did not accept that.

Most of us are completely unfamiliar with the emails that Mike is talking about but as it turns out Mike has told several board members that he has seen the emails and that he knows what is contained in them and that he knows who has obtained them through inappropriate means. Mike Strumolo has not been forthcoming with the public or the board about these emails yet he is trying to mislead the public into believing that he is on a crusade for their benefit. I'm concerned that Mike is aware that someone has copies of these emails that were obtained through a  back door and that confidential information could be at risk of being compromised and yet in my opinion, Mike is only concerned with trying to aid in finding a legitimate source for the emails by insisting that they be released so that his participation in all this is hidden. 

Mike Strumolo regularly disregards the regulations, bylaws and policies that are in place to govern the actions of the Board of Education. He has always counted on the rest of us to act with integrity and that even if he doesn't respect or abide by those exact rules,  he counts on the fact that the rest of us do, so that he can get away with these things all along. He has judged his fellow board members and the administration well, they have all exhibited great restraint in dealing with Mike Strumolo and his agenda and have always maintained great respect for the rules, but his blatant unwarranted attack on dedicated individual members of our community who have volunteered thousands of hours to promote children and education in Parsippany is my line in the sand.

Mike Strumolo has been a regular and habitual rule-breaker and because of his manipulation of the media, and of many well meaning and concerned community members, he has managed to get away with these actions for far too long.

Mike Strumolo would love to have you believe that Frank Calabria, Alison Cogan and Frank Neglia aren't good for the district but the reality is that these three actually care about education and the children and would never be a party to Mike's agenda or any coverups or making any decisions that are in the best interest of Mike over the school district which is why he hopes he can mislead you into believing we would be better off with them gone.  I can tell you with all my soul that the only one who would benefit from that move is Mike Strumolo, because in my opinion he believes that these three stand in the way of his ultimate goal which is to have anyone and everyone who had anything what so ever to do with the loss of the bus repair contract, and the huge impact that had on his own wallet, gone.

Please take note of the glimpse of Mike Strumolo behind the scenes that I have shared with you and please don't help him achieve that self serving goal. If Mike Strumolo would like you to cast your votes for Mr. Carifi and Mr. DeIntinis, please ask yourself: Why might that be?

Mike Strumolo does not care about the children, our schools or you. Mike Strumolo only cares about what's best for Mike Strumolo. I'm sure that in response to this letter Mike Strumolo will go ahead and follow through with the threats I've heard from him over the years and try to say that he's the victim here and that I've buried my grandmother in my back yard or that he will call the governor on me or some other delusional ruse to attempt to disparage me. But in the words of a fellow board member who has known Mike for years and is his friend, "You can't believe a single word that comes out of Mike's mouth."

Please believe that.  

Debbie Orme
Parsippany-Troy Hills

Deborah Orme is a sitting member of the Parsippany Board of Education. Her term ends at the end of this year.

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