A Union County Assemblyman lashed out at a north Jersey college president today for his controversial purchase of a $219,000 conference table that has been at the center of criticism in the media and public this week.
Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-20) on Wednesday called on the New Jersey Council of College Presidents to publicly condemned Kean University’s purchase of a $219,000 Chinese conference table, bought without a competitive bidding process, at its December 8 meeting. The purchase was sanctioned and defended by university president Dawood Farahi, who himself has been heavily criticized during his tenure.
Last year, Farahi was the focus of a faculty-sparked investigation by Kean’s board of trustees over charges that he lied about his academic credentials on his résumé. Critics still maintain a Facebook page called Farahi Fraud Investigation, created in the wake of the incident.
“The Council of College Presidents should move to publicly disapprove of the infamous conference table at Kean, which comes with a $219,000 price tag, as well as the bid waiver process from which it was unscrupulously acquired,” Cryan said in a statement, referring to charges that the table was bought without competitive bidding, normally required under New Jersey law for purchases at state colleges and universities.
In an interview with The Record earlier this week, Farahi defended the table — a centerpiece of a circular rooftop conference center on campus with panoramic views of lower Manhattan — by arguing it was cheaper to buy in China than it would have been if made in the United States.
Under Farahi, Kean is focusing on expanding a sister campus in in Wenzhou, China.
“It is small-minded to focus on the university buying a $200,000 table,” Farahi told the paper.
Cryan said that within the bylaws of the council lies an “Accountability Committee” headed by President Richard Levao of Bloomfield College, whose responsibilities include “higher education public relations issues and recommend positions on higher education public policy issues.”
“Middle class New Jersey families are struggling to pay for higher education and a public condemnation of such reckless spending would reassure students statewide and confirm confidence in the Council of College Presidents,” he said.
Farahi entered office in 2003 with the help of state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), though Lesniak has since called on the university president to justify the expense of taxpayer dollars.
Cryan’s comments come amid deliberations over who will step in to his LD20 assembly seat when he is sworn in as Union County sheriff at the end of the year. Sources say Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley, a close ally of Lesniak’s, is in the pipeline for the post.