Jersey City BOE President Charged With Corruption, BOE Meeting Cancelled

TRENTON, N.J. (Hamodia/AP) -
Outgoing President of the Jersey City Board of Education Sudhan Thomas. (JCBOE)

New Jersey’s attorney general on Thursday charged five public officials and former candidates, including the president of Jersey City’s school board, with political corruption.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement that outgoing Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas took thousands of dollars in bribes from a cooperating witness from May to July. Thomas lost his bid for re-election to the Jersey City School Board in November, and his term on the board ends at the end of December.

Thomas was in the news Wednesday after calling for the resignation of a school board member who had posted online, questioning whether the attackers in the Dec. 10 shooting at a Jewish market might have had a point. The social media post by Joan Terrell-Paige, a member of the JCBOE, was condemned by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and NJ Governor Phil Murphy. Both the mayor and the governor called for the resignation of Terrell-Paige.

A Jersey City Board of Education meeting scheduled for this evening was cancelled today. A Jersey City social media page stated that the meeting was cancelled “due to potential security risks following controversial comments one of its members made about the city’s Jewish community, Board President Sudhan Thomas said.”

The social media posting also quoted a statement by Jersey City Public Safety Director Jim Shea clarifying that no specific threat had been made. “With hundreds of people planning to attend tonight’s meeting, a decision was made to be proactive and ask the BOE to postpone the meeting. To be clear, there were no security risks specifically identified, only the interest of public safety as is the case with any large gathering,”

Messages seeking a response to the charges were left with Thomas’ and three of the defendants’ lawyers. It’s unclear who is representing the fifth defendant.

Thomas said Wednesday that he will seek to censure Joan Terrell-Paige over online comments she made that questioned whether the attackers in the Dec. 10 shooting at the JC Kosher Supermarket had a point in gunning down Jews.

Thomas condemned the post and said he would seek Paige’s resignation at a meeting Thursday, but a message posted on the school board’s website said the meeting had been cancelled.

Grewal’s statement said that the defendants took tens of thousands in bribes offered in envelopes, paper bags and even a coffee cup stuffed with cash.

The five defendants are charged with taking bribes from a cooperating witness in the form of campaign contributions, according to the attorney general. In return, they promised the cooperating witness that they would vote or use their authority or influence to hire his law firm for lucrative government legal work, according to Grewal.

The other defendants are Jason O’Donnell, a former state Assemblyman and one-time Bayonne mayoral candidate; John Cesaro, a Morris County freeholder; John Windish, a former Mount Arlington council member; and Mary Dougherty, a one-time candidate for Morris County freeholder.

Dougherty’s attorney, Matthew Beck, forwarded a statement from her in which she said she would fight the allegations and called herself a person of “great integrity.”

Cesaro’s attorney, Robert Dunn, said his client denies the allegations and would aggressively defend against them.