Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Middletown BOE Member By Fellow BOE Member; My Conversation with Vinnie Brand

Yesterday was a rather interesting day, shortly after waking I was bombarded with texts, emails and a few phone calls, all wanting to know if I had read or heard anything about an ethics complaint filed by Middletown Board of Education (BOE) member Vinnie Brand against fellow BOE member (former board president) Joan Minnuies. I had not and was referred to a posting in the MIDDLETOWN New Jersey Facebook group. And it has taken until now to get my thoughts together. The post was written by another local blogger that I chose not to link to,  if you wish to read it you can by accessing it through the Facebook group page.

Joan Minnuies
According to the account, Brand filed a two part complaint. The first part of the complaint has to do with a personnel issue and whether or not Minnuies should have recused herself from voting due to the fact that her daughter, Jenna Minnuies Jackson, is a sports coach at Middletown North High School and would have benefited if the outcome of the vote was favorable; it was not.

The second part of the complaint filed with the New Jersey School Ethics Commission against Joan Minnuies, alleges that Minnuies arranged for Middletown High School North students to receive credit for community service in exchange for "volunteering" at her granddaughters birthday party. Minnuies's granddaughter is the daughter of High School North coach, Jenna Minnuies Jackson, Joan Minnuies's daughter.

Both allegations are serious and it will be up to the ethics commission to decide on the appropriate punishment if they find that the allegations have merit. Punishments for ethics violations could range from a simple reprimand, a censorship of some type to be determined by the local BOE or removal from her position on the BOE.

Now let's backtrack a little bit.

Last week I ran into Vinnie Brand at the Harmony School "Meet the Candidates Night", I wanted to see for myself  who was running and what they had to say. Vinnie saw me come in and pulled me off to the side and stated that he had something to speak to me about but he couldn't that night due to the circumstances of the event. We exchanged phone numbers and he said he would call me. That phone call never came until yesterday. I sent him a text stating how I could now assume what he wanted to talk about; he called me immediately.

I was on the phone with Brand, between two calls, for nearly 45 minutes yesterday, after which my head was spinning. If you've ever talked to the man you'd know what I mean. The conversations were fast, furious and dominated by Brand explaining himself and his actions for filing the complaint against Minnuies. Most, if not all, of what he said I couldn't disagree with after he explained himself.

Vinnie Brand
Brand went on to say that Joan Minnuies has several other conflicts of interest, as well as, questionable actions as a BOE member, that will lead him to file another ethics complaint against her shortly. He stated  that he could recount a minimum of 15 examples of ethical violations conducted by Minnuies attempting to protect her daughter. He could also recount many other times in which Minnuies stated, "I don't care", to the board attorney referring to how many ethical violations she may be in violation of as long as she gets what she wants.

Brand continued and added that Minnuies recently used Middletown High School North letterhead to send letters to parents, telling them of her many personal accomplishments as a BOE member and organizer of Project Prom.

When I questioned Brand about the timing of the ethics filing - that it seemed like a cheap campaign stunt designed to embarrass Joan and sway voter opinion against her a week before election day, he said that wasn't the case. He said that there had been many instances over the past few months when he thought about filing charges  but didn't until after a September meeting of the BOE, when he had had enough of her behavior that he deemed offensive and unethical.  He said his motives were not political and that he did not publicizes or announce to anyone that he had filed charges against her. He said that he had no idea how people found out about it, but it wasn't through him.

When I said to him that some are saying that he was in cahoots with current Middletown Board of Education President, James Cody, (who's up for reelection as well this year) against Joan Minnuies he flat out denied it.  He said that as a member of the BOE, he informed Cody and the school board's attorney that he was filing ethics charges against Minnuies and that both were leery and advised against it.

I could go on further about what we talked about, but the bottomline is Brand is fully aware of what he did and he is unapologetic about it. As a father with children still in the school district, he knows full well that his kids my suffer some type of retribution for his actions in this matter. But he said someone needed to stand up to Joan Minnuies because so many others in and around the district are "petrified" of her because she can be a bully and isn't afraid to retaliate against someone if they cross her in someway.

Here's my two bits on the subject:

Over the years I've heard many stories about Joan Minnuies's conduct and actions as a BOE member from others, including former (and current) BOE members, former and current district teachers, guidance counselors and administrators, as well as, parents that take a good portion of their time to attend the rather long meetings (on school nights)  of the Middletown Board of Education. Depending on whose stories you listen to or care to believe, you either love Joan or hate her; there are few that fall in-between.

For many reasons I personally don't care for the job Joan Minnuies has done as a member of the Middletown Board of Education. As the longest serving member of the BOE, I feel that she has become to accustomed to the position and feels entitled to it. Once any elected official begins to feel entitlement in any way, it's time for a change. My feelings have nothing to do with whether or not there is an ethical complaint filed against her. It's just time for a change.

If the New Jersey School Ethics Commission finds that Minnuies has indeed had lapses in ethical conduct detrimental to the local school board, then they will handle it appropriately. Until then, there's an election in several day and voters can determine for themselves what constitutes a lapse in ethics and whether or not the changes filed against her were for the good of the school district or just a political ploy.

Correction 10/29/15

It was previously stated that Jenna Minnuies Jackson was a teacher at Middletown High School North, she is not. Minnuies Jackson is a sports coach for the high school. Sorry if there was some confusion.


Anonymous said...

I understand how Joan Minnuies could vote against hiring a teacher who is better qualified to coach than her daughter. She doesn't want her daughter to lose her coaching job. It's completely unethical and unfair to the young woman who went through the interview process and deserves the job, but I understand how an unethical person like Joan could vote not to hire the young woman.

But Joan using her and her daughter's positions of authority to take advantage of the very same children that she took an oath to represent on the Board of Education to work at her grandchild's birthday party and rewarding them with community service for doing so? What kind of twisted mind would even consider doing something like that? She must be drunk with power. That's a special kind of screwed up.

Joan Minnuies is an unprincipled disgrace and she needs to resign and save our community the embarrassment of going through the public process of having her removed.

She took an oath to be an advocate for our children, not to use her position of authority to take advantage of our children.

Do the right thing Joan. Step down.

Anonymous said...

We've all seen this movie before a million times.

A politician acts irresponsibly because they think they are above the law.

They get caught and they claim that they are innocent and it is simply a political attack.

Then they start the cover-up to hide their tracks.

They get caught trying to cover up what they did.

It's rarely the initial crime that brings them down, it's almost always the cover-up.

Then the politician decides to resign in order to "spend more time with their family".

Joan Minnuies, let's cut to the chase.

It's time to spend more time with your family.

Anonymous said...

For the first time ever this Republican voter agrees with the story and comments above. Joan must go. I hope everyone votes her out on Tuesday

Michael Morris said...

Miracles do happen !!

Anonymous said...

I am hearing that other candidates signs keep getting taken all over town..

jmolloy said...

I think all the members at one time or another have pulled stunts. At the board of ed meetings many times they are dismissive to parents and argue with each other! Whenever I have ever had a concern and emailed board members usually just Joan ever responds and she is always present at back to school nights, PTA meetings, and other events, which is what should be expected of all of the members.

Anonymous said...

Any truth to the rumor that this lacrosse coach was not an experienced teacher but merely the Superintendent's kid's coach? So maybe Joan was objecting on that basis instead of just protecting her daughter. Anyone looking into that?

One thing for sure, the Cody led Board with Brand voted to raise taxes this year when we went down in the number of teacher positions. This while the township was able to hold their portion of taxes almost neutral.

It seems if we want fiscal responsibility on the Board of Ed, we have to elect women!!

Justin Yahara said...

You are cowards if you do not leave your real name. Be confident and have conviction!

Justin Yahara

Anonymous said...

"Whenever I have ever had a concern and emailed board members usually just Joan ever responds and she is always present at back to school nights, PTA meetings, and other events, which is what should be expected of all of the members."

Thank you Jmolly for bringing to light more of Joan's unethical behavior that she has been involved in for over a decade.

She is NOT permitted to be at PTA meetings and if she does show up, you should ask her if she has prior approval from the superintendent to enter the school. In fact she has no more right to be in our schools than some stranger driving down the parkway. Being elected to serve on the board of education does give a board member a free pass to enter our schools, contrary to what Joan Minnuies would have you believe.

Board members also should not be at Back To School Nights unless they have children in the school. Parents and guardians are invited to attend, board members are not invited. Joan has no business being there. She is there campaigning.

She is not a parent. She is not teacher. She is there so that people like you Jmolly will think she is concerned about your kids, she is not. She demonstrated that when she used our children to work at her grandchild's birthday party and then rewarded them by calling it community service. She taught those kids that it is okay to be as dishonest as she is. Joan should be ashamed of herself. She is not concerned about the teachers, she demonstrates that when she takes the money raised from The Great Race and gives it to PTA's instead of giving it to teachers for innovative programs like her tax return says she does. She is lying to the IRS and she is lying to you if she says she has the authority to enter our schools without prior approval of the superintendent. Joan is at PTA meetings campaigning for her seat on the BOE, nothing else. This is how she has turned herself into a career BOE member.

Joan abuses her position as a board member to enter our schools and intimidate teachers and administrators into doing things that will get Joan more votes.

And furthermore she is not supposed to act on complaints that she gets from parents like you Jmolly until after the administration has had ample opportunity to act upon it. She has no more authority to act on parent complaints than you or I. If Joan does anything more than relay your complaint to the Superintendent she is in violation of the State Board of Education's code of ethics. Thank you for putting another nail in Joan's board of education coffin.

The fact that Joan is the only board member that responds to your emails and the only one who is constantly in our schools is a not a feather in Joan's hat, it is an example of her lack of ethics and yet another indication that Joan is abusing her position as board member.

Joan Minnuies and apparently you Jmolly need to learn what the powers of a board of education member include. They include voting on the recommendations of the superintendent at board meetings, period. They may be members of committees that make recommendations to the superintendent, but contrary to Joan's belief, board members cannot set policy or determine the agenda items and they have absolutely no authority to act on individual complaints.

Anonymous said...

The post should read:

......elected to serve on the board of education DOES'T give a board member......

Please edit Mike

Vinnie Brand said...

There is not truth to the rumor regarding the teacher hired. She is an excellent hire. It is also not true that we raised taxes and lost teaching positions. Simply not true. During my time on the BOE, our budget has gone from a multi million dollar surplus with virtually NO physical plant improvements to a budget increase of 2% or LESS every year. We have trimmed our surplus, added teaching positions, undergone a MAJOR program of repairs and improvements with a lucrative shared services arrangement with our Town Committee and MOST of this Joan voted no on. Look it up. Don't take my or anyone else's word for it. It's a matter of public record.

As for votes, look this up too. Joan Minnuies and Leonora Caminiti voted for an Early Retirement Incentive despite being told by the Department of Education that they must not do this. The DOE warned them that this ERI would result in major penalties. It has. We are currently facing a 5.5 million dollar assessment and we are spending big legal dollars to try to get it adjusted. That was given to us by Joan and Leonora. That alone would be an increase in our budget of over 3% to pay that fine.

These items can all be fact checked. The nature of social media is that anyone can say what they want and hide behind an anonymous name. I will not do that. My name is Vinnie Brand.

Lisa Johnson said...

Thank you for this valuable information. Very enlightening and upsetting.

Anonymous said...

Joan has clearly wandered off the ranch. Between the State BOE ethics charges that have already been filed against her and the untold number yet to come, she is toast even if she keeps every vote that she bought with your donations to her "charities" over the years. Whether it's the State Ethics Board, the IRS or our votes that finally bring her down, it's doesn't really matter, her days on the board are numbered.

It seems to be the only thing that Democrats and Republicans in this town can agree on, after a decade on the Board Joan has worn out her welcome.

The smiling face that greets you at Back To School Night, PTA meetings, The Great Race and Project Prom is not the same one she brings to board meetings. That's her campaign face. The BOE will be a much more respectful, civil and effective board the moment she steps down. As anyone who has attended a BOE meeting knows, Joan's negativity, lack of respect and blatant disdain that she exhibits towards her fellow board members and the administration is palpable. It's not an atmosphere that is conducive to progress and a sense of a shared goal. It's toxic and she is the reason that our board has had a reputation over the years for being dysfunctional.

It's hard to say which BOE candidate is the best choice, but anyone can see which one is the worst choice.