A Wood-Ridge Board of Ed Contest Sparks Questions

Political critics of a Wood-Ridge school board candidate have charged that due to his past, he should not be able to serve.  Christian Kleban was convicted at the age of 19 for a drunk driving incident that resulted in the death of another young man in his car.  He had a fake ID at the time which said he was 22.  Before a judge, Kleban did not dispute the findings of the prosecution and served time in a youth correctional center.  When he reentered society, he took a job in the construction and engineering field, having obtained a degree from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The matter began when Kleban applied for a recreation position with the town last September, and a background check came back which led to his denial.  It came as a surprise to some, noting Kleban’s past and ineligibility to hold that position in 2021, when a year later he launched a bid for local school board.  Kleban said that in the year since, his record was expunged, and if he applied again for the coaching position, he would have no problem carrying out the job.  Because of that, he said, he is thus able to lawfully serve on the board as well.

Kleban’s petitions and signed, notarized candidacy filing, dated July 6, 2022, attests to his statement of qualification that he would “if elected, agree to accept and qualify into that office.”  The certificate continues, “I further do solemnly swear (or affirm) and declare that I am not disqualified as a voter pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:41, nor have I been convicted of a disqualifying crime pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1.”

The Board of Education election is a contest among three men for two seats.  Kleban is challenging two incumbents, Joseph Biamonte who serves as a Wood-Ridge police captain, and Christopher Garvin, an attorney and member of the Bar for some 33 years.

The school board positions are officially non-partisan, but Kleban drew attention after campaigning with local Republican figures in Bergen and Passaic County.  Among them is CD-9 candidate Billy Prempeh, a Millennial African-American Air Force veteran who is looking to oust long-time incumbent Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Following the start of his campaign, Kleban was interviewed on “Mike Crispi Unafraid”, an internet-based right-wing streaming outlet which lists MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell as a sponsor.  Kleban said his interest in running for school board started as a result of mask requirements in schools during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  “When did I start?  Whenever the nonsense started with mask mandates,” he told Crispi on his show. “The first thing I did was link up with people locally. I went to school boards, every single one.  I am on public record saying ‘take the masks off the kids’ non-stop.  They didn’t really care. All they cared about was they were going to lose the $600,000 of funding, or the bare minimum of funding, and we need every bit—and I totally understand that.  But nobody wanted to stand up.  I said, ‘we are not the only school board out there that is not complying. Why do we have to comply with this? This should be illegal’.  I wanted to make a difference and be a voice for kids who were having rashes on their faces. That’s how it started.”

Kleban said that he has three main positions: school rankings, parental rights advocacy, and responsible spending.  He asserts that parents should have sole responsibility for making health decisions for their children and stridently opposes mandating vaccinations.

“Mike Crispi Unafraid” says that it is “fighting the fake news media on behalf of the American people.”

Opponents of Kleban may have hoped that his campaign would echo, in some respects, that of former Democratic Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ most recent, quixotic, and ultimately non-starter bid for the chief’s seat in Paterson.  Torres, prior to backing Councilman Alex Mendez, ran against incumbent Mayor Andre Sayegh, even though he was not legally permitted to do so.  In 2017, Torres served a prison sentence after a guilty plea to charges of official misconduct, which barred him from ever holding office again.  In the end, with his campaign ended, the Mendez-Torres alliance was for naught and Sayegh was returned to office while then-acting-Attorney General Matt Platkin swooped down on him.

But if Kleban has had his record cleared of any legal impediment to holding office, which Torres had arrogantly ignored for his own pursuits, then the public good is to be served by the informed Wood-Ridge voters.  They will determine through the exercise of their democratic privilege whether or not his past affects their trust as an elected representative, or if his policy positions alone are sufficient to make that determination.

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3 responses to “A Wood-Ridge Board of Ed Contest Sparks Questions”

  1. The issue still remains background checks for school board candidate should be a requirement prior to submitting their petition for candidacy.

  2. Meanwhile the kids of the other school board members “inexplicably “ get accepted to Bergen Academy. Gee! Wonder how that happened???

  3. Meanwhile the other school board members are controlled by the liberal extremist democrat mayor and council. Senator Paul Sarlo will NOT gain votes from all parties based on this Insider NJ hit piece he personally published on a lowly non-partisan school board candidate. What readers need to understand is WHY Sarlo would personally denigrate this school board candidate? Was he scared? Of what?

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