Republican lawmakers joined Senate President Steve Sweeney’s call to abolish the Schools Development Authority following reports of a new suit alleging racial discrimination and retaliation under the authority’s new leadership Friday.
“To quote Ronald Reagan, ‘a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.’” State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) said. “After news of this latest scandal and subsequent lawsuit, the School Development Authority is past the point of no return. I stand with Senate President Sweeney and call for the termination of this corrupt entity that has demonstrated its existence achieves more harm than good.”
On Thursday, The (Bergen) Record reported a longtime SDA employee sued the authority, claiming she was denied promotions because of her Indian heritage and fired after filing complaints about racial discrimination and retaliation.
Shilpi Kumar’s complaint charges she was fired passed over for a promotion to lead the SDA’s human resources department after heading the agency following a cull of patronage hires made under former SDA CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco.
Delgado-Polanco, a former Democratic State Committee vice chair, fired dozens of longtime authority employees, replacing them with friends and family members who frequently lacked qualifications for their new positions.
A bill sponsored by Corrado and Sweeney would eliminate the SDA and roll its responsibilities into the Economic Development Authority, which has seen its own share of scandals, though those dealt with its administration of tax incentive programs, not hiring practices.
A State Commission of Investigation report released last week said Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration was kept in the loop on nepotistic hires made under Delgado-Polanco. On Monday, the governor said he disagreed with some of the report’s conclusions and restated his faith in the authority’s new CEO, Manny Da Silva.
Kumar’s suit claims Da Silva and others retaliated against her after she announced her intent to apply to be the human resource office’s director. She filed a complaint alleging she faced racial discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February. She was fired the next month.
“This agency is the epitome of what gives State workers and their bosses a bad name,” State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), a cosponsor of the bill eliminating the authority, said. “Not only is this agency the butt of jokes, it also contributes to the public’s skepticism of government as a corrupt patronage pit. The SDA has got to go.”