Ridgewood school board president Sheila Brogan on Monday rebuked ex-trustee Charlie Reilly's public statements that member Jim Morgan would have to bow out of contract negotiations due to perceived bias issues.
"It was suggested it would be unethical if Mr. Morgan were to participate in board discussions regarding Dr. Fishbein's employment contract status," said Brogan, citing a Letter to the Editor Reilly sent to The Ridgewood News several weeks ago and a .
Taking Reilly's claims "seriously," Brogan said she consulted the school board attorney who found "Morgan's participation in discussions related to Dr. Fishbein's contract status would not be a violation of the New Jersey School Ethics Act or the Code of Ethics by which all board members are bound.
"There is no indication that Mr. Morgan cannot be objective on evaluating Dr. Fishbein's performance as Superintendent of Ridgewood Public Schools," Brogan said at Monday's school board meeting.
Fishbein's contract expires in summer of 2013 and he soon will have a difficult decision to make.
He could stay in his hometown where he has children in the district, but would face a 30 percent cut in salary due to the state's cap on superintendent pay.
Alternatively, Fishbein could – like many counterparts have done in recent years – flee for a job in New York where there are no salary restrictions. Fishbein makes over $220,000 a year; should he stay in Ridgewood he'd drop to about $165,000, which would also lower his pension status.
It remains unclear what Fishbein will decide or when he'll make his decision, but the board has given all indications it wants him back.
"Going forward, I am pleased to announce that the board has unanimously expressed to Dr. Fishbein our support and the desire for him to continue his service to the district in his capacity as Superintendent of Schools," Brogan said.
Morgan declined to comment and Fishbein did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.
Reilly, however, isn't stepping back from his comments.
In an e-mail sent to Patch on Tuesday, Reilly said he was "pleased" the board would like to see Fishbein back.
He wasn't quite as pleased to hear Morgan will participate in discussions.
"Mr. Morgan displays a lack of common decency in using his office as a trustee for the education of Ridgewood’s children to decide on the continued employment of a person for whom he has without basis in fact cast aspersions on more than one occasion," Reilly said.
The former school board member claimed Morgan questioned how truthful Fishbein was during the RHS bridge saga, among other field issues.
"Despite any benefit of the doubt to which he may be entitled having taken the oath of office as a Board member, he must recognize that he has squandered his credibility as an objective evaluator of merit," Reilly said.
The board has been in discussions with Fishbein as to an extension. Fishbein's contract stipulates that he notify the board if he plans to leave 90 days before his contract expires.