TRENTON - Attorney General Anne Milgram announced today that, acting on behalf of New Jersey Education Commissioner Lucille Davy, lawyers for the State have filed a complaint in Superior Court seeking to have declared “null and void” a $556,290 severance payout by the Keansburg Board of Education to Superintendent Barbara Trzeszkowski.
“For a school board to so outrageously enrich a former superintendent through this type of ‘golden parachute’ at the expense of the children of Keansburg and the State’s taxpayers is not only contrary to public policy and unconscionable, it violates the fiduciary duty and loyalty the Board owes to the public,” asserts a legal brief filed by the State this afternoon in the Law Division of Superior Court in Mercer County.
The brief was filed in support of a five-count state complaint naming Trzeszkowski, the Keansburg Board of Education and school district as defendants. The complaint alleges that the $556,290 in severance to be paid under contract by Keansburg schools is “nothing more than a bonus given to Trzeszkowski at the time of her retirement” and violates the law.
The State’s legal papers note that Davy has a substantial interest in the Keansburg matter because she has authority, as Education Commissioner, to ensure a thorough and efficient education to all school children in New Jersey, and has authority to guard against the misspending of public funds targeted for educational purposes.
A former Abbott or “special needs” school district, Keansburg received approximately $31 million in state aid for the current school year. In the previous school year, Keansburg received approximately $34 million in state aid. In both years, state aid made up the bulk of Keansburg’s overall school budget.
“Effectuation of the ‘severance’ provision and other terms of Trzeszkowski’s contract will mean that Trzeszkowski is to be paid $740,876 over the next five years – an amount that exceeds four times her final annual salary as superintendent. But the children of Keansburg and the taxpayers of the State will receive no services from her during those five years,” notes the brief filed on behalf of Commissioner Davy.
In addition, the state’s complaint alleges that the severance package is unlawful and should be voided because:
• It violates New Jersey public policy in that public funds are being used to pay for an “unreasonable and excessive (severance) provision” benefiting Trzeszkowski and not the students of Keansburg
• The Keansburg school board members who originally approved of Trzeszkowski’s contract in February 2004 “breached their fiduciary obligation to the citizens of Keansburg and New Jersey to adequately protect the public funds in their care from inappropriate and excessive expenditures.”
• The contract lacks “valid consideration” in that the severance provision was calculated – and Trzeszkowski was made immediately eligible to receive the severance payout – based on her 30-plus years of service in Keansburg, most of which was spent in jobs other than superintendent.
• It “inappropriately” binds future Keansburg school boards for related costs, including administrative costs, arising under the contract for five years after the contract has terminated.
Assistant Attorney General Howard McCoach is handling the Keansburg matter on behalf of the State.
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