Tonight, the Jersey City Board of Education convenes for the first meeting of 2023 where they will be voting in a new president due to Gerald Lyons’ departure in December. Two candidates, Vice Presidents Natalia Ioffe and Gina Verdibello are vying for the spot but Ioffe is coming into the vote with an ethics complaint hovering over her nomination.
On October 18, in the midst of the 2022 election cycle, Ioffe published a letter in Hudson County View in which she backed the “Education Matters” team.
Catherine Coyle, a former district associate superintendent, lodged an ethics complaint with the School Ethics Commission on November 5 alleging that the letter Ioffe had published was unethical and a breach of her duties as a board member.
Though Ioffe herself had previously run under the “Education Matters” banner, Coyle alleges that she did not make this known at the time of the letter’s publication. Additionally, and more compromising, according to Coyle, the letter was published with Ioffe’s title as JCBOE Vice President and gave the impression that she was speaking on behalf of the board.
In the letter, Ioffe had specifically referenced, “our school board” and “the board of education” without clarifying that these statements were not made with the Board’s approval.
On Nov. 4, over two weeks later and four days prior to the election, Hudson County View amended Ioffe’s statement at her request to reflect that the endorsement was from her as a private citizen and not on behalf of the BOE.
The complaint alleges two ethics violations. By using her name and title and referencing the Board of Education, the complaint alleges that Ioffe gave an unfair advantage to the “Education Matters” candidates right before an election.
Coyle also argues that by writing an endorsement letter, Ioffe was acting outside of the scope of her duties. And that through her endorsement, she compromised the Board’s integrity and neutrality by giving the impression that not only she, but the Board was offering endorsements.
The complaint could put Ioffe in a difficult position tonight, as votes for her from the newly elected trustees could be seen as a reward for her endorsement.
Ioffe did not respond to the Jersey City Times’s request for a comment on the matter.