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Ridgewood BOE Candidates' Night Is Thursday

Four running for two seats on the school board

Not sure who to vote for when come around in April?

The League of Women Voters is holding a Candidates' Night on Thursday at the on Cottage Place.

Incumbent and are gunning for a one-year seat, while Gina Damasco and are battling for a three-year term.

The event starts at 7:30 p.m. and will also be televised on Channel 77. Irma Leeds will be the moderator.

CPA March 30, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Joe I didn't want to be vague but I should have used the phrase "relevant experience".
Gina Damasco March 30, 2012 at 02:53 PM
AMAMOM, I am sorry that you felt that way. As none of the other candidates posed any questions to me (except for Mr. Loncto, who rather asked Mr. Hutton to question me), it had not occurred to me those answers would have been perceived as general. We were limited in our time and my interest was mainly to answer the questions we were asked, not to use it as a vehicle to push any particular platform. It was an open forum, so it is unfortunate you did not attend and raise your specific questions to me at that time so that I could have allayed your concerns. Further, in my experience, I have done a number of group presentations on the laws my office enforces and have appeared before hearing officers, judges and in other fora without having the benefit of reading verbatim from a prepared statement as others may have done; perhaps the ease with which I have learned to speak publicly may have given you the impression that I was too laid back? Finally, while I appreciate your concern for my free time, perhaps it might be abated if I said that, prior to my current 40-hour per week job, I worked as a school board attorney for a law firm that had a minimum 2,000 annual billable hour requirement - which did not include the non-billable activities, pro-bono legal requirements, volunteering, attending legal education seminars, etc. Compared to that, I find that I have enjoyed a considerable amount of free time that I am glad to volunteer to my own community in this position. -Gina
Joe March 30, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I think AMAMOM was referring to your answers to the four main questions posed by the LOWV. I agree with AMAMOM: irregardless of your "ease" in public speaking, your answers to those four questions evidenced a lack of preparation and seemed to show a tenuous understanding of school board activities, which is confusing since you say you were a school board attorney. Speaking of that, for which district were you an attorney? Do you have a website or anyplace where interested voters can learn more about your particular platform or your experience in local Ridgewood community, civic or parent groups? I have not seen today's Ridgewood News; do you have a letter published? Trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but but really need some concrete information from you.
Joe March 30, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Ditto. These types of forums are so important. More people should really attend.
Gina Damasco March 30, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Joe, I understand your characterization that I evidenced a lack of preparation, and again I ask in what regard specifically? Perhaps the knowledge and skills required of a school board attorney are beyond that which you are fully familiar? I again point out that I was seated next to the candidates you felt were well prepared - two of them (including my opponent) are currently seated on the school board and thus presumably knowledgeable enough to promptly and resoundingly challenge someone who is purportedly as unprepared and lacking in understanding as you assert. If this was truly the case, why then did neither of those candidates raise something at the time when presented with ample opportunity during crosstalk? I would assume that would have afforded the best and, in fact, most contextually appropriate opportunity to do so - and certainly preferable than waiting for such challenges to be first raised anonymously and after-the-fact in this forum. And, I should again point out that the event was open to the public, and thus you were free to raise questions directly at that time. Sills, Cummis and Gross, the firm I worked for, represented numerous school boards and other public entities around the state. The determinations for some cases I handled while at Sills have been published and include a reference to me by name. Also a matter of public record, that firm represented Ridgewood BOE.
CPA March 31, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Joe it appeared to me that Vince may have received the questions in advance. I want someone who will be able to review the contracts and offer suggestions to make things better. I don't want a puppet like Vince who will accept whatever contract is put in front of him. He doesn't have current relevant experience to serve in this capacity and neither does Bob Hutton.
Joe March 31, 2012 at 03:06 AM
@CPA, they ALL received the questions in advance. The BOE already has a law firm that reviews contracts, there is much more that a BOE member needs to do. I really don't see Vince as a "puppet." Have you listened him at meetings over the past few months? He is asking questions that show like he is going through the financials in detail, and he is getting more info released to the public the budget process. Now that I have had a chance to see today's newspaper, I would like to know why Ms. Demasco did not respond to the newspaper's request, and chose not to share her platform with the public? Does this not worry you even a little bit? Hello? We don't need a lawyer who hides behind vague legal language, does not answer questions posed for the benefit of voters/taxpayers and as I understand it, has not attended other events to which she was invited to meet taxpayers. Am I missing something here? It is dismissive and disrespectful of the community. Just what we DON'T need more of in the BOE.
Linda McNamara March 31, 2012 at 07:46 AM
Thank you, Boyd for your kind words and to Gina, I think you're terrific.
Linda McNamara March 31, 2012 at 07:52 AM
Thank you, Boyd for your kind words and to Gina, I think you're terrific.
CPA March 31, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Joe you just saved the taxpayers of Ridgewood whatever retainer we pay the law firm that reviews our contracts because if Gina is elected her expertise is in Contract Law. Gina can review the contracts and offer addendums. Joe you are a genius! I like people who think outside the box. Vince and Bob couldn't turn on a computer without help that is how antiquated they are. I thought I was watching Laurel and Hardy with the two of them. No new ideas or directions. Follow the same path and keep the status quo. NO THANK YOU!!!!!
CPA March 31, 2012 at 03:59 PM
@Joe who is related on the BOE to the people at the law firm that is currently reviewing the active contracts?
Marcia Ringel March 31, 2012 at 05:45 PM
The most shocking moment of the evening, after which I'm not sure I heard much else, was hearing that it would even be considered for one second to put the historic Board of Ed building, the first public school in Ridgewood, on the block. Please, please, BOE, or whoever owns the building: do not sell our heritage to the highest bidder while spending millions to turf the town and a quarter of a million, so far, to fix the de-turfed turf. NOT COOL.
CPA March 31, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Yes that statement came from Vince. If it isn't sold it should be vacated by the BOE.
Joe March 31, 2012 at 07:11 PM
@CPA I don't believe anyone on the BOE is related to the people at the Board's law firm. But it's easy enough to find out. That information is required to be disclosed and is available to the public. So why don't you ask instead of tossing out unfounded allegations. And as for a BOE member providing legal advice to the Board, instead of the BOE's attorney of record, there is probably a state law against that. And there is no way the BOE should vacate or sell its historic building on Cottage Place. Will. Never. Happen. (That's not to say they couldn't lease out some office space on one of the floors.)
Realist March 31, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Gina, I was actually amazed at your lack of preparation for the debate. For a lawyer to come so unprepared was shocking. If you showed up to a trial that unprepared, it would border on negligence. Specifically, you didn't answer the first question - whether the school budget should be voted on, since it is at or under the 2% state cap. Why didn't you answer it? I believe it's because you never read the questions or prepared an answer. On the technology question, you vaguely threw out a suggestion of outsourcing, but you did no research as to how much the district currently spends vs. how much that kind of outsourcing might cost. It's easy to toss out ideas. Anyone can do that. Someone who is serious about running for an elected office should do the research and see if, in fact, that could save money. Also, you never addressed any issue about how technology should be used in our schools. Again, some research would have been nice. The fields? You lacked even the most rudimentary amount of knowledge to be able to speak coherently about the issue. And I also wondered why you refused to answer the questions that the Ridgewood News sent you. I think you are dodging these questions, and hoping that people just elect you instead of someone else…good luck with that. I, for one, will not be voting for you - and I will share my thoughts with everyone else I can. Electing you to the BOE would be a huge mistake.
Realist March 31, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Oh, and one more thing Gina. To suggest that the attorney's representing the BOE do not currently read and thoroughly review the contracts that the district engages in, is insulting to your peers. How dare you say that the contracts were not treated correctly...because your statement that if you were on the BOE you would make sure that the contracts were structured in such a way to protect the district is saying that the attorneys who currently do that work are not protecting the district. Do you even know who those attorneys are? Have you contacted them to state that you are not pleased with their work? As a resident, you have every right to do that. NO, you haven't done that. But, you have complained about them. Good for you.
CPA April 01, 2012 at 12:22 AM
@Joe yes the staff should be reduced at the BOE offices. Dr. Fishbein and the necessary staff should be relocated into space in one of the schools. No one other then Dr. Fishbein should have an Administrative Assistant. If you can't type your own memos on Word learn.The BA can't even use Excel or Outlook which was apparent at the last BOE meeting. I was told that he is the head of the technology area since the person was riffed two years ago. Is that true? Did he draw up the three year technology plan? You so called experts are really putting the screws to us taxpayers. It really isn't necessary to retain the building on Frankilin and Cottage. I am sure there is some type of nepotism going on if you scratch the surface.
Joe April 01, 2012 at 07:07 PM
@CPA I'm actually in agreement with you on the BA and his tech skills. Deplorable. Vince Loncto was correct in the candidates night when he said they need an IT Director. I just think you're barking up a wrong tree about nepotism (like I said before, it's easy to determine and I've never seen evidence of that). It is an easy potshot.
CPA April 01, 2012 at 07:39 PM
@Joe if this was a public company would we really see this amount of financial mismanagement? In a 3 year IT plan and they went from Macs to Dells to IPads because they couldn't get parts on Macs, ... my head is about to explode. The BA has to be the fall guy. He doesn't have an ounce of business accumen other then to screw us taxpayers. For someone with that much inability to do anything correct he must have something on someone to keep his job.
Gina Damasco April 01, 2012 at 11:20 PM
@Realist, I am assuming you are not an attorney as such a baseless claim that exercising my right to voice my opinions in a school board candidacy was attorney negligence is a very serious charge against a fellow bar member - not to mention inappropriate and intimidatory. That notwithstanding, I am running for school board member not school board attorney. I do not think it is a good use of district money to have a board attorney closely review the hundreds of pages of each RFP, bid specification, contract and change order for all of the various contracts the board approves. That is the job of the school board and administration. Where the board determines that litigation is necessary to pursue a legal remedy to protect the district's interests, such litigation would be handled by a school board attorney (as with a variety of other matters). For example, if you look at the 2009 Bond Referendum Project Costs, part of Ridge School's $5.3 million+ contract included Electrical Upgrade and Distribution. Yet, In the 7/19/11 Referendum Update, the Board approved at least $3,776 for total revised circuitry at Ridge School. The Board and Administration, not the Attorney, is responsible for knowing what it approved and whether this should have been included in what was already part of the original referendum under "Electrical Upgrade and Distribution." It is my position that we don't simply write checks for things we don't know whether we've already paid for.
Joe April 02, 2012 at 12:00 AM
But why do you assume the Board didn't know what it approved? As Dr. Fishbein and board members have explained at many many meetings and updates about the referednum work, there are issues discovered in a building after construction begins. Coincidentally, I live in the Ridge district and I recall being told that they discovered a large electrical wiring problem from many years ago that needed to be corrected, I believe to be brought up to code. This kind of change order is to be expected and I expect my elected BOE reps to review and approve them. What evidence do you have that they have not? If you question the Ridge costs or the Hawes costs that you casually mentioned in the debate, what have you done to research what actually happened? It is public-accessible information. That's what I was referring to when I said you seemed unprepared. In watching the commentary between CPA and Realist, I believe Realist was responding to CPA's assertion that you as a Board member would help with legal contract review, etc. I am glad to see you agree with Realist that this is a dumb idea, and that you concur that you are running for board member not board attorney. Thank you. That being said, I do wish you would answer the debate questions more directly as Realist requested, especially this one: Do you support school elections being moved to November and the budget vote eliminated? Thanks.
CPA April 02, 2012 at 12:45 AM
@Joe it isn't my assertion that Gina would be utilized to handle the Board Attorneys job. My assertion is that Gina could discuss the merits and perils of what the Board is signing off on which is a huge difference. The Board must see the contracts before they go to the Board Attorneys for their review. If a contract needs revision Gina can challenge the wording of the contracts before any hand off. This why Gina would be a benefit over Vince.
CPA April 02, 2012 at 12:57 AM
"Gina can review the contracts and offer addendums". My exact quote.
CPA April 02, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Not an easy potshot. The BA has a relation working at Cottage Place.
Gina Damasco April 02, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Thank you, CPA. Joe, I simply disagree with your assertion that I did not answer the questions. As previously raised, two sitting board members were present and took no issue with my responses despite ample opportunity. Further, one prior board member was present and did raise a direct question to a candidate - and that candidate was not me. I managed to withstand the scrutiny of these gentleman (whom you enthusiastically support), each of whom were unable to find a basis to challenge me in that appropriate forum and outside the cloak of cyber anonymity. Any member of the public can view the video and make their own judgments. As far as this particular discourse, the tone has clearly deviated from productive, salient and appropriate and I will simply conclude my involvement in it by letting the voters judge for themselves - my statements, and those of my fellow candidates, are out there for each to make their own unbiased assessment.
James Kleimann April 02, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I received a comment from Michele Lenhard, the BOE president, regarding the belief Business Administrator Angelo DeSimone has a relative working in RPS: "Mr. DeSimone does NOT have a relative employed by RPS," Lenhard said in an e-mail this afternoon.
CPA April 02, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Fair enough I am not going to split hairs with you...LOL
Realist April 05, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Wow. So Gina just left. Imagine what would happen if she were actually elected and were questioned by her constituents...I guess she would just ignore us. I'll speak to her anyway, even though she has chosen to ignore us all: Gina, using big words in your responses does not make those responses more effective. Try doing away with the legal-speak (did you really use the word "intimidatory" in a sentence?). I guess you are running under the platform of "Use all of the words I learned when studying for the SATs when talking to potential voters, so they will be fooled into thinking I actually know what I'm talking about". Gina, you are fooling no one. You haven't answered any questions. You say that your fellow candidates "...took no issue..." with your responses. Well, your fellow candidates aren't the ones you need to convince to vote for you in an election. We are. And at that, you have failed. Joe, thanks for your comments. CPA - "...splitting hairs..."? Really? You make a false claim against someone, and when you are proven wrong you call it "splitting hairs"? That's wonderful. In your world when you are right you are right, and when you are wrong the other guy is misinformed. Hmmm. That must be a nice world you live in.
Long Time Resident April 07, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Gina did the correct and best thing by just leaving......It is wise to avoid arguing with a fool. You can't win when you argue with a fool because a fool can defeat all. He does not care for the facts. He does not know debate. He’s a stranger to reason and logic he can negate. In the end the fool will win, his logic is so strong! Only he decides what he does not like and everyone else is wrong! Smart decision Gina......
Realist April 14, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Thank you "Long Time Resident". You have summed all of this up quite neatly...and all without addressing any of the issues that we have been discussing. Which facts, exactly, have not been cared for? In what way has reason and logic been negated? And so it goes, that the fool wins...because in fact, his logic is strongest. So in the end who really is the fool? Turns out the fool is the person who runs for elected office, yet refuses to engage in discourse with the voting public. Smart decision Gina? Smart decision for us, as you won't be elected...which is truly the best outcome for all.

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