(Parsippany, NJ ) Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce is applauding the reported action by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office to investigate the hiring practices and recent allegations of employee file tampering at the state’s Schools Development Authority.
DeCroce was among a group of legislators last week demanding an investigation of the authority following numerous reports of mismanagement of the agency under the chief executive Lizette Delgado-Polanco, who has allegedly turned the SDA into a patronage pit by hiring political allies and dismissing experienced staff members. Besides working as the CEO of the schools authority, at a salary of $225,000, Delgado-Polanco also serves in a leadership capacity at the Democratic State Committee.
“The SDA, like other semi-autonomous agencies in New Jersey, must be held accountable for its actions,” said DeCroce. “The SDA has a specific job to do and it is spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money doing it. The SDA cannot be run as an employment agency for the politically connected.”
The SDA has come under fire for its spending practices, and some have called for its abolition. According to published reports, the SDA has exhausted nearly $12 billion in borrowed money in the past decade and needs $1 billion a year from taxpayers to cover its debt.
DeCroce said she also is concerned that, according to a published report, the SDA has hired outside counsel to represent the authority in relations to the attorney general’s investigation. DeCroce noted the SDA has a chief counsel and legal staff.
“I would like to know what prompted the SDA to hire outside counsel. I also want to know when the hiring occurred and how much the counsel will cost taxpayers,” said DeCroce. “Was the counsel hired to stonewall the investigation or to help us get at the truth?”
DeCroce, who has repeatedly called for more audits and accountability in statewide school spending, said the SDA is symptomatic of how the state’s education funding escalates annually without responsibility.
“There is no shortage of school funding in New Jersey. We spend more money on education than all but three other states. The issue that concerns me is, where is all our tax money going and is it being used responsibly,” said DeCroce.