State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) used today’s Senate Judiciary meeting — which heard testimony from the state’s acting Department of Education Commissioner, David Hespe — as an opportunity to tear in to a long-time enemy: the Elizabeth Board of Education.
Lesniak has been battling for control of the board with its leader, Rafael Fajardo, for several years — and again declared victory in November when two of his own candidate’s wrestled seats from Fajardo’s. Lawsuits and allegations of misconduct have also characterized their relationship: in October, Fajardo and others accused a super PAC closely tied to Lesniak of illegally bankrolling its rivals’ campaigns, and just this week, Lesniak called on the state Department of Education to investigate what he claims are fraudulent uses of funds for students with disabilities in Elizabeth.
Lesniak and/or his allies have routinely won the legal battles, including getting that last lawsuit filed by the Fajardo allies dismissed.
During his questioning of Hespe, Lesniak brought up the rivalry again, saying the Elizabeth BOE under Fajardo had filled workers in “unnecessary positions” and spent too much “time on political activities.”
“You should have the authority to prevent them from filling positions that you determine is unnecessary,” Lesniak recommenced, “because it doesn’t do any good if an unnecessary appointment is overridden and payed for by taxpayer dollars.”
He said that would “send a message — a message loud and clear.”