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Newark Lead Story Hitting the Coverup Phase

Will they ever get to the EJ policy and regulatory story?

My own lead in schools story is amazing, but probably typical

NJ Spotlight reports today that the Newark public schools lead problem goes back over a decade, yet State and local school officials failed to notify the public, see:

Remarkably, Newark Mayor Baraka, who initially stood with State overlord Cerf, still does not believe there was any intentional coverup of the problem.

“We don’t believe that the NPS deliberately hid the problem, but we think it was a poor decision not to inform the public,” his statement read

Compare NJ Spotlight coverage with that of Bob Braun.

[and read how Bergen Record relies on AP to downplay the story- “no crisis” Christie says]

Maybe Baraka also believes that Rahm Emanuel didn’t deliberately hide those police dash cam videos of the murder of Laquan McDonald.

So, let me tell my own lead in schools story, which is remarkable in some respects but probably fairly common in failure to disclose lead problems.

I was a school board member in North Hanover Township in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s. I worked at NJ DEP at the time in the Hazardous Waste Management program and knew just a little about toxicology and environmental regulation.

We were a K-6 district that educated military dependents on McGuire & Dix – at the time, there was 1 school in Jacobstown for the local kids and 3 schools on the base for the military kids.

One Board information packet included lab reports and a memo from the Administration notifying the Board of a lead problem in drinking water fountains on the base schools and a request to discuss the issue in Executive Session at the upcoming meeting.

Long story short, I refused to comply with Board/Administration policy and practice to keep Executive session discussion confidential and when the Board went back into public session I advised the public, teachers and parents about the lead problem, our plans to remediate it and the fact that the board tried to keep the whole thing secret.

We had a McGuire Air Force full Colonel that served Ex Officio on the Board. After the meeting, he was livid. I recall him getting in my face and poking his finger in my chest, face red as a beet and almost shouting “Who the hell do you think you are? The Air Force takes care of our own. We don’t need EPA and DEP bureaucrats to tell us what to do”.

The next morning I arrived at work in my DEP office at 9 am to find a memo on the seat of my chair from the DEP Ethics Officer (a lawyer) advising me that I had violated ethics policy by participating in the lead debate. I was told I had a conflict of interest and that I must recuse myself from all discussions about lead or any other matter involving the DEP (despite the fact that I did not work in Safe Drinking Water program).

The Ethics memo also directed me to read a specific recusal statement publicly at the next school board meeting.

Obviously, that Colonel or someone at the Air Force knew someone in the Gov.’s Office or the AG’s Office or the DEP Commissioner’s Office because I have never seen anything responded to so quickly (between 10 pm and 9 am).

They shut me down immediately. And this was in a tiny K-6 school district on the rural edge of the south Jersey Pinelands.

True story.

And Baraka thinks the State and Newark school officials did not deliberately keep this secret? He worked in the school system and must know better.

So who is he protecting and why?

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