Senator Steve Sweeney Wrote a Letter to Ed. Comm. Lamont Repollet About Lakewood. Also, How Much Does Inzelbuch Really Make?

In August Senator Sweeney wrote a letter to Comm. Repollet asking, among other things, whether the DOE has considered auditing Lakewood, NJ’s most insolvent district, and what he thinks of Board Attorney Michael Inzelbuch’s $600,000 annual salary (plus benefits) which, he notes, is “six times higher than the national average.” The Senate President is likely displeased by the discovery made by the Asbury Park Press that Inzelbuch actually was paid $715,000 last year. David Sciarra of Education Law Center said in response to this news, ” “What’s really shocking is the state fiscal monitor [David Shafter], who has the authority and the responsibility to stop this, has done nothing.”

Once again the NJ DOE is missing in action. Then again, Comm. Repollet doesn’t really like audits; who needs accountability in an agency responsible for allocating $15 billion a year, about 40% of the total annual state budget?

More from the article:

The Press’s review of more than 380 pages of Inzelbuch’s bills show a vast array of tasks Inzelbuch performs for the nine-member school board. But the bills also raised questions about the district’s oversight, including:

  • Paying for future work: Inzelbuch charged the district $30,290 for hourly work done from July 1 through July 17, but the date on the district check that was issued to him was July 10 — days before Inzelbuch indicated he performed the work. The New Jersey Department of Education code, which includes multiple directives to districts to keep legal costs down, prohibits advance payments.
  • “Miscellaneous” work: In July, Inzelbuch billed the district for $18,564.58 in “miscellaneous Lakewood litigation matters.” Last year, the state education department took issue that Inzelbuch was not itemizing his bills to justify his payments.
  • Invoices as lists: Inzelbuch provides lists of work done to justify his $50,000 monthly payment. He said the lists are essentially a “memory aid” for his work in the district. For example, on Sunday, July 7, he listed 13 tasks but not the time spent on each task, or total hours worked.
  • Conflicting billing: The school board agreed to pay Inzelbuch his hourly rate, beyond his monthly retainer, for litigation matters and some special education issues, according to the lawyer’s contract. The billing records show some issues, for example staffing matters, are sometimes listed as litigation for which Inzelbuch is paid $475 an hour. At other times, the bills show the same kind of work as being done as part of his $50,000 retainer.
  • No cap on cost: The board of education’s contract with Inzelbuch allows “unlimited” communications and meetings with district leaders and board members and preparation of legal opinions. State regulations require districts with high per-pupil legal costs to put policies in place to minimize those costs. 

Here’s the letter from Senator Sweeney. Repollet has yet to respond.

What do you think?

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