Newark school leaders seeking indictment of teacher union leader

John Abeigon
John Abeigon

Newark public school officials are seeking the indictment of a top officer of the Newark Teachers Union. They are charging John Abeigon, the NTU’s director of organization, with “defiant trespass,” a fourth degree crime that carries with it possible penalties of up to 18 months in jail, a $10,000 fine, and revocation of state  teaching licenses.

The charges against the 58-year-old union leader arise from an incident in March that followed the death,   probably as a result of  meningitis,  of an 6-year-old pupil from the Oliver Street School. Abeigon says he went to the school to determine whether it had been adequately cleaned and disinfected to prevent the spread of the disease.

The Newark school administration had not been totally honest about its handling of the tragedy, initially issuing a false report that the child had not been in school when she was contagious. A spokeswoman for Cami Anderson, the state-appointed schools superintendent, said officials had “misread” attendance reports.

Douglas Petty--signed the complaint against Abeigon.
Douglas Petty–signed the complaint against Abeigon.

Abeigon said he was ordered out of the school before he had the chance to speak with the teacher who had the child in her class.  Instead of leaving, he took a stairway up to the second floor and did try again to speak with the teacher. He was again ordered out of the school. Weeks later, he was served with a summons to appear, not before a  municipal judge in Newark, but before a state Superior Court judge, Siobhan Teare.

At that initial appearance–last Friday–Abeigon’s attorney,  Joseph Fusella, was told by an assistant prosecutor the leadership of the Newark Public Schools was seeking a grand jury indictment of the union leader. That’s why it was in state, rather than municipal, court–and headed for the grand jury.

“I had never been told the charges against me until that day,” said Abeigon. He cites  the NTU contract that permits a union staff member to be in schools when issues arise concerning the health, safety, and welfare of union members.

Another hearing has been scheduled for next month. The Essex County prosecutor’s mujst decide by then whether it will go along with presenting the case to a grand jury or reduce the charge to a disorderly person’s offence and send it down to municipal court.

This site has obtained the complaint signed by Douglas Petty, the principal of Oliver Street. Petty contends Abeigon “pulled away” from school officials while he was being escorted out of the building, “ran” upstairs  and was later “found” outside the classroom of the child who had died and was again escorted outside.

The complaint from Petty calls the crime “criminal trespass.” The law cited is 2C:18-3A, the state law against trespassing. It is usually a disorderly persons offence, but, if the crime is committed on school property, it becomes a fourth-degree offense, an indictable crime with much harsher penalties.

Abeigon says the district not only lied about when the child was at school, but also about its efforts to disinfect the school to prevent further infection of children and staff members.  He said he found “September dust” in area of the school where the child had been.

This was not the first run-in between NTU officials and the leadership of the school district during this school year. After Abeigon took pictures of vermin infestation and other unsanitary conditions at Lafayette School, he was “banned” from all schools–despite a provision in the NTU contract that allows union staff members to be in schools to assure the health, welfare, and safety of its members.

Anderson and her state team have frequently resorted to criminal sanctions to suppress criticism. More than a year ago, it charged community activist and elected parent leader Daryn Martin  with assault on former assistant superintendent Tiffany Hardrick. Hardrick left with a controversial $12,000 good-bye gift from the state-appointed administrators.

More recently, Anderson banned from school property Roberto Cabanas, an organizer with NJ Communities United, an organization that helps the growing Newark Students Union. Cabanas has vowed to defy the ban.

The perversion of the criminal justice system for political purposes is standard operating procedure in Chris Christie’s New Jersey. Christie was a loser of a politician until his brother Todd made massive contributions to the Republican party and got Chris the job as federal prosecutor for New Jersey.

He then used that position to draw attention to himself and eliminate political rivals, wiping out Democrats and urban politicians like Sharpe James and Wayne Bryant–while withholding investigations from characters like George Norcross who were later to become important allies.

Just weeks before he was elected governor–with 48 percent of the vote–Christie’s allies in the federal prosecutor’s office (including a woman assistant to whom he gave a mortgage) arranged for the bust of Democratic politicians and phony raids on the home and office of former Assembly Speaker Joseph Doria. It took two years to clear Doria’s name–no charges were ever brought.

Christie is trying to ride that tawdry trail right to the White House. Let’s hope such ambitions are as ridiculous as they seem. But, meanwhile, he and his allies in the Newark schools and elsewhere have learned his lessons well–and are trying to rob dissenters of their rights and teachers of their careers.

 

 

14 comments

  1. CHRISTINA MOREIRA

    FIRST..LOVE BOB BRAUN..WISH U WOULD COVER ELIZABETH. SECOND I AM A LITTLE CONFUSED..WHY DID THE PRINCIPAL NOT WANT THE ABEIGON TO TOUR THE SCHOOL TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHILD WHO DIED. TO MAKE SURE SCHOOL WAS DISENFECTED?

    Bob Braun: I would love to cover my home town. Where do you suggest I begin? You can me private emails at bob@bobbraunsledger.com. As to why the principal didn’t want the NTU snooping around the schools, I can only guess he was under orders.

  2. JOEy

    If this injustice is allowed to continue, not one union official, in any union in this state will be safe. Keep the faith John your not alone and thank you Bob for continuing to keep us updated on the Christie, Cami and Booker crimes.

  3. Joe

    I’m not defending the Cami Anderson Cabal but when you enter a school, you do have to check into the main office first because no school wants a possible off the streets crazy in their school who might kidnap a kid. John Abeigon was banned from all the schools (which seems like a violation of his rights as a union representative), couldn’t the union have sent another rep who was not yet banned by the Cami-cabal? I’m just saying, why give any additional ammunition to Anderson? Can’t the union sue for violation of the contract which allows union reps in schools for critical issues?

  4. Tom Ferriero

    Bob, just want to say how much I look forward to your new post and articles.You are by far the greatest public advocate for public education.We have are problems here in jersey City also but I stand by my ” brothers and sisters ” in Newark. Keep fighting the good fight

  5. MarquinhoGaucho

    A State Grand Jury for trespassing?! !? He’s a union leader on union business. They couldn’t try him Newark who has proper jurisdiction because everyone in Newark hates Cami with a vengeance.

  6. John McEntee

    Would love for you to also cover Paterson. It equally a mess as Newark.

    President-Elect
    Paterson Education Association.

    Bob Braun: Got a cousin who works there. Great guy. I will contact you soon and maybe we can get all the big urban folks together to talk about what needs to be covered.

  7. public education supporter

    I don’t know how much Bob can take on himself, but yes, every urban district in N.J. clearly needs their own Bob Braun! Stopping the disinformation of the ed reform movement should be a priority and since mainstream media is not willing to challenge the Cami’s, Christie’s and Norcross’s out there, independent bloggers should ideally be active in Paterson, Camden, Jersey City and so on. The network can grow and get stronger this way. Let’s hope that through Bob’s connections and the efforts of truth-telling potential bloggers out there, an urban network gets off the ground!

    • Dawn

      Completely agree that other cities need coverage. If the larger population had any idea what administrators in Camden are doing, they would be disgusted!

  8. Teach & Prach

    My opinion:
    I have a strong feeling that this is a well orchestrated & well timed prank by the United for change Union faction to draw much needed attention in an effort to receive a boost in the election. I think out of the three factions, Cami & the Democratic shenanigans favors them most. I have no proof but I have a strong hunch that this flip flop group has been cultivating contacts with Cami’s people for a long time and as such this was done as a favor….! I have seen mercurial leading members of this group serving as the eyes and ears of the administration in various schools and have done their part shafting teachers. This is my assumption and I could be wrong and have no facts!

    Again, I have no proof but my Machiavellian and suspicious mind is telling me it is so!
    If my hunch is right…Diabolical!

    • Michael Iovino

      Amazing…Amazing…to think that someone would capitalize on the death of a child sadly shows how YOU think. Clearly your timeline is a bit screwy and perhaps your reading skills as well. The article indicated that John was banned from previous schools for doing just this thing. Perhaps you don’t recall the article about the filth he uncovered. Secondly, the sad death of the child and John’s subsequent visit and charges took place before any campaign was launched. Once again, the ministers of misinformation and malinformation prevail with those who choose to embrace the cynicism of anti-union attacks.

  9. Former NPS

    The principal at Oliver truly lives up to his name. Many fine teachers left in disgust or were forced out of Oliver by his unfair targeting. He particularly targeted veteran teachers.

  10. Sue

    I know a teacher from Oliver. She told me that they didn’t start disinfecting the school, until after they said it had been disinfected. And that they disinfected the first floor because there was going to be a huge meeting there, but the rest of the school wasn’t even done that day.

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