Ed board member gets ethics reprimand

Ed board member gets ethics reprimand

December 12, 2006 JJ

HOBOKEN - The former president of the city's Board of Education has been reprimanded by the state for voting to promote his brother and for voting for a contract for Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons, whom he serves as an aide.

Carmelo Garcia, who is still on the board, was reprimanded by state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy last week at the recommendation of the state Ethics Commission. It is unclear what, if any, practical consequence the reprimand has.

The state found Garcia should not have voted to promote his brother, Sammy Garcia, who works for the school district, or to approve a $60,000 contract for public relations firm Fitz Media, Inc. - which is owned by Fitzgibbons.

The complaint was filed in September 2005 by a fellow school board member, Theresa Burns.

Garcia argued that he had failed to recuse himself from the vote because the meeting was fractious and the items were far down on a long agenda. He said when he realized his error he tried to change his vote.

He also argued that he worked for Hudson County and was not actually employed by Fitzgibbons or his company.

But the Ethics Commission concluded there was a conflict of interest; he has worked for Fitzgibbons since 1998.

Garcia, who also serves as the director of Health and Human Services for the city, maintained the charges were politically motivated because of his association with Mayor David Roberts.

"It was politically driven," he said yesterday. "Not withstanding, I never denied making a mistake. I want to continue to do everything I can for the children of the district."

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