Thoughts & Views: Time is overdue for an accounting

Photo by Ron Leir Kearny High School in transition.
Photo by Ron Leir
Kearny High School in transition.


In July 2013 the Kearny Board of Education – spurred on by then-Superintendent of Schools Frank Ferraro – hired the accounting firm D’Arcangelo & Co. of Rye Brook, N.Y., for $75,000 to perform a “construction risk assessment” of the KHS Façade & Noise Abatement project.

At the time, Ferraro said the firm was being asked “to confirm whether what we’re doing [on the job] is right.”

It was also going to find out whether the school board would have enough money from the millions of dollars budgeted for the project by the Federal Aviation Administration, Port Authority of N.Y. & N.J. and state Department of Education to finish the bedeviled job which started in 2010 and was supposed to be finished in three years.

But the general contractor was “terminated for convenience” in March 2013 and the board has been trying to pick up the pieces ever since, hiring another contractor to complete work on the south building of the high school and slated to receive bids for the north building on April 8.

Ferraro said he expected to get the report from D’Arcangelo within six to eight months.

Well, six months have passed. We hear unofficially that the board has received some preliminary information from the accountants which it has reportedly discussed in closed session. The Observer filed an Open Public Records Act request for the report and was told it hasn’t yet arrived.

Meanwhile, the politically divided school board has placed Ferraro on an involuntary paid leave and, at last week’s meeting, voted 6-3 to hire a private investigations firm, Check-M-Out of Newark, headed by retired Newark Police Det. Lt. James O’Connor, for up to $5,000 to look into several issues related to the superintendent’s office during Ferraro’s brief tenure in the post.

Since no written resolution was presented to the board when it was asked to vote on the measure, The Observer asked board attorney Kenneth Lindenfelser to explain what issues would be examined. He declined further comment.

When the members of the board’s new majority were elected last year, we heard avowals of transparency and straight dealing with its constituents. That sounded good at the time.

Now it’s time to stand and deliver on that promise.

It was disheartening to read in the Sunday New York Times how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed to follow up on consumer complaints about an allegedly defective ignition system in six models of cars sold by GM – which we the taxpayers gifted a $10 billion bailout – and that the alleged defect, which caused cars to suddenly stall out, has been connected to 13 motorist fatalities since 2003.

GM is now recalling more than 1 million of these models worldwide, the Times reported.

Despite a pattern showing an increasing number of complaints each year, the NHTSA said it found “insufficient evidence” to warrant a safety check of those models.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised inasmuch as the Federal Railroad Administration didn’t bother pushing the MTA to install an automatic braking system in both the pushing locomotive and in the control car of its Metro North line, leading to the tragic derailment in the Bronx this past December, killing four and injuring more than 100 riders.

If we can’t rely on the federal government to keep us safe on the roads and on the rails, can we really expect President Obama and the Congress to protect the sovereignty of the Ukraine against the incursions of the Putin brigades?

I prefer to put my money on the Knicks making the NBA playoffs. That’s a safer bet, I think.

– Ron Leir

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