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State Sen. Kristin Corrado (NIKITA BIRYUKOV PHOTO)

Corrado, Oroho call for a select committee to investigate SDA hirings

Report said Murphy administration ignored warning from SDA ethics official

By Nikita Biryukov, June 14 2019 3:56 pm

State Sens. Kristin Corrado and Steve Oroho called for the creation of a second select committee to investigate hiring practices under Gov. Phil Murphy after a report published Friday said an ethics official at the Schools Development Authority warned Murphy’s administration of improper hires at the SDA.

“This story explicitly cites yet another example of this administration taking grievances against their senior level officials with utter insincerity,” the two Republicans said in a letter to legislative leadership. “More disturbing is the fact that this time these complaints came from ethics official Jane F. Kelly who works within the Schools Development Authority.”

The Bergen Record on Friday reported that Kelly, a vice president in charge of ethics at the SDA, flagged concerns over potentially-nepotistic hires made by then-SDA CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco.

Delgado-Polanco replaced longtime staffers at the authority with employees with whom she had personal and professional connections against Kelly’s advice, the Record reported.

Murphy’s administration rebuffed Kelly’s warning, telling her to file a written complaint, according to the report.

“These claims only further highlight the previous accounts regarding the culture of this administration, therefore we are calling for the Legislature to immediately adopt legislation to allow for a thorough review of hiring practices,” the Republican senators said. “This committee should investigate the hiring processes and general operations of the Schools Development Authority and any other state agency, department or political subdivision.

“Unlike the previous committee, this one cannot have one hand tied behind its back. We must be allowed to investigate anywhere that the facts take us.”

Corrado and Oroho both sat on the select committee that investigated the hiring of former SDA chief of staff Al Alvarez, who was accused of sexually assaulting state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan.

That committee’s enabling legislation gave it the power to investigate a number of questionable hires made by Murphy’s administration, but the committee focused solely on Alvarez, eschewing investigations of former administration staffers like Derrick Green and Marcellus Jackson, who resigned from his government job after it was reported that he had previously pleaded guilty to bribery charges.

Corrado, a select committee vice-chairwoman, and Oroho have previously called for that select committee to investigate hiring practices at the SDA, though the committee has since issued its report and is unlikely to conduct further inquiries.

The Friday letter to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney is an attempt to see those investigations conducted, though it’s not clear whether legislative leadership will opt to create a committee that could imperil already-tense budget negotiations with the governor.

“As we had stated at our last special committee hearing on June 5, 2019, our work is not done and today’s article only reaffirms this sentiment,” the Republicans said. “We believe a renewed special legislative investigation must be put in place once again in order to truly get to the root of the problem that seems to continue to plague this administration.”

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