Ethics charges filed against current, ex-Roselle BOE members

ROSELLE, NJ — A member of the local Board of Education is facing a formal complaint filed with the state School Ethics Commission for making a “racist comment” to the board president at an August meeting.

A formal complaint also has been filed against a former member of the board — who was removed for an unrelated reason — for “threatening” the president and later calling her a “bigot” and “a little Trump” on social media.

According to a five-page complaint filed by board President Patricia Fabrizio and board members Donna Eleazer, and Richard Villeda and dated Sept. 20, Keyanna Jones violated the Code of Ethics for School Board Members when she used the phrase “white privilege” in reference to Fabrizio at the Aug. 16 meeting.

Fabrizio had asked board members to refrain from using their cell phones and admonished them for doing so at the meeting when Jones responded by telling the president that her “white privilege doesn’t extend to this end of the table.”

The complaint also alleges three Code of Ethics violations against Jones for comments she made in a public Facebook forum on Aug. 17 in which she referred to Fabrizio’s “erratic ranting” and “unprofessional behavior.” Jones also claimed that “certain members of the Administration continue to engage in illegal, unethical, and fiscally irresponsible behavior that put us all at risk.”

According to a separate complaint filed by Fabrizio, Eleazer, Villeda and Courtney Washington, Archange Antoine also violated the Code of Ethics for school board members when he “stood up from his seat and screamed at (Fabrizio) and continued to yell over her explanation of the current Board proceedings” at the Aug. 16 meeting.
The complaint alleged two additional violations of the Code of Ethics after Antoine reportedly posted separate items on Facebook on Aug. 17. His first post on a public Facebook forum allegedly referred to Fabrizio as a “bigot” and “a little Trump” and alleged that she cannot “handle pressure from questions of transparently (sic).” His second post, on Jones’ Facebook page, is alleged to have been directed toward Fabrizio and stated: “Exactly! Tell the truth and shame the devil. #UnhingedAndUnstable.”

Allan Roth, attorney for the Roselle Board of Education, said there has been a “acknowledgement of receipt” from the Trenton-based School Ethics Commission. He said the commission can keep the matter in house or refer it to the Office of Administrative Law for vetting. Ultimately, the commission will make a determination and penalties could be censure, a reprimand, suspension or dismissal, Roth said.

Antoine was removed from the school board on Aug. 27 by a 5-4 vote for missing five consecutive meetings in May and June. In seeking to regain his seat on the board he had held since 2011, Antoine appealed to the courts, but was denied an emergent relief application by Administrative Law Judge Margaret M. Monaco.
Jonathon “Shawon” Spearman was approved by an 8-0 vote on Nov. 19 to fill Antoine’s seat on the board.

Fabrizio failed in her bid for re-election last month and Sherise Pollard and Eleazer did not run. Jeffrey Bryan, Frances Teabout and Delia Ware-Tibbs were elected to fill their three seats. Incumbent Courtney Washington lost to Renae Smith in the race for an unexpired term.

“This is part of a desperate president who is on her way out,” Antoine said in a Nov. 29 phone interview with LocalSource. “(The) people of Roselle have spoken. So, obviously the people of Roselle said for them, their (the board members’) actions were unacceptable and all of them lost the election and are no longer on the board. The people have decided to stand with some amazing leaders who just won the election. So, we’re going to continue to fight this like we have fought all our battles and at the end of the day justice will prevail.”

When contacted via phone Nov. 26, Jones referred questions about the formal complaint to her attorney, Alyssa Weinstein, of the firm Purcell, Mulcahy & Flanagan. A message left for Weinstein seeking comment was not returned.

Daniel Antonelli, the attorney representing Antoine in his bid to be reinstated to the Board of Education, said there is a scheduled meeting with Monaco on May 14.

“We have additional counts in our petition seeking the relief to reinstate our client,” Antonelli said during a phone interview Nov. 30. “For example, we have a count (that) we believe he has provided good cause for the missed meetings. So, that will be an issue before the court. Obviously, we still have the issue we believe the fact that the board violated its own policy and instead relied upon the state statute. That’s still something that’s before the court as well.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version incorrectly identified Courtney Washington as joining three others in filing a complaint against Keyanna Jones.