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Ferrera, Spiegeland Lead BOE Race Spending

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Diana Ferrera and Aaron Spiegeland are heavily outspending other candidates in the November election for Board of Education.

According to campaign reports posted to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Ferrera has spent $5,846.18 of $12,815.50 raised, while Spiegeland has spent $5,273.49 of $9,484.00. The candidates share a campaign manager, Christian Strumolo, and a campaign treasurer, Robert De Marino. The bulk of the funds raised by both candidates came in donations in excess of $300, which must be reported in detail.

Three of the four contributors to Spiegeland’s campaign have Strumolo in their name. Christian Strumolo gave $2,600, and similar amounts came from a campaign fund of Belleville Councilwoman Marie Strumolo-Burke, who is Christian Strumolo’s aunt, as well as Naomi Strumolo, who is Christian Strumolo’s mother. Another $1,500 was donated by Joseph G. Pope, the owner of Continental Corporate Services, a legal document service based in Nutley. Spiegeland’s largest expenses were $2,737.08 for lawn signs and $1,966.41 for a mailing. Christian Strumolo and his mother are listed as Verona residents, but the others are not. Spiegeland also paid $390.50 to Ferrera’s campaign.

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Ferrera’s report also includes a $2,600 contribution from Christian Strumolo and $2,500 from Joanna Rolleczek, who is listed as residing at the same Verona address as Strumolo. Ferrera received $1,000 each from Dana Zarfino, Antonio Zarfino, Dominique Paulin, Anthony Frungillo, Peter DiPaolo, and Frank Centanni. Only the Zarfinos and Centanni are identified as Verona residents. Mike Dupree, also a Verona resident, donated $500. Ferrera’s campaign also reported $825 in donations of less than $300. Her largest expense was, like Spiegeland’s, $2,737.08 spent on lawn signs. She also spent $1,966.41 on a mailing.

The three other candidates in the BOE race have raised and spent far less. Denise Verzella has spent $1,681.88, of which $708.53 was spent on lawn signs. Verzella, who is her own campaign manager and treasurer, reported $3,411.14 in campaign contributions, only a handful of which were over $300: Adrian Pinderhughes gave $518.59; Hyndman for Council, the account for Jason Hyndman’s unsuccessful Town Council campaign, donated $475; and Val Brahver gave $311.84. All are Verona residents.

State rules require a contribution report if any one of several different thresholds are hit, such as getting $300 from any one source, getting donations in cash, or receiving donations of campaign goods like signs. Campaigns also must report if expenses reach $5,800 or more.

Drappi said that her campaign has not triggered any of the mandatory reporting thresholds but voluntarily disclosed to MyVeronaNJ that she has raised just over $1,000 for her campaign. She said that she and her treasurer, April Neale, have been in contact with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, and “are keeping close tabs on all of the financial records to ensure that we are in compliance.”

Mike Boone, who has pledged to self-fund his campaign, has spent just $455. He is also is own campaign manager and treasurer.

This is not the most expensive election in Verona. In 2019, Michael Nochimson raised $18,766.34 for his Town Council race, and spent $13,896.894. In that same race, Christine McGrath raised $13,703 and spent $8,617.40. In 2021, Christopher Tamburro got $15,717.82 in donations for his Town Council race, including an $8,200 donation from the NJEA Political Action Committee.

UPDATE, 10/23/22: Christian Strumolo was the only reported donor to Pam Priscoe’s 2021 Board of Education campaign. Priscoe is now the BOE vice president.

The Board of Education election is Tuesday, November 8. MyVeronaNJ has interviewed all of the candidates and has posted a recap of the Conference of SCAs forum.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

14 COMMENTS

  1. Well, well, well. It sounds to me like a family by the name of Strumolo wants to run our Board of Ed. Who are they and what is their agenda?? Verona voters– please know your candidate! There is something not right about this.

  2. While this fundraising is perfectly legal, this is just flat shameful for a school board election. Contributors from outside our town have put in a combined $21,000 to two candidates! What are their motives?
    These spending reports show that people who have zero interest in Verona’s schools are trying to exploit this BOE election for their own selfish purposes.
    I mean no disrespect to those who are running. They have shown to be fine, if not misguided, people. However, this demonstrates that they are beholden first to people outside our community. They cannot be expected to put our children and Verona residents first.
    Voters must think long and hard about where this money is coming from. I intentionally have spent less than $500 of my own money so far on this campaign. I expect to spend not much more. As a candidate in this election, I have turned down well meaning town residents seeking to help financially, because I feel I must speak for all of our students and town residents.
    Mike Boone
    Verona Board of Education Candidate

  3. What is shameful is somehow discrediting candidates based on how much money they have been able to raise for their respective campaigns.

    To suggest that a candidate like Diana Ferrera, a hard working mother, teacher and community member with a sterling reputation – is somehow going to be compromised based on support of friends and family is disgraceful. Yet this is what the article is suggesting. What is more peculiar and disappointing is to see an opposing candidate quickly attempt to pile on.

    I’m named in this article as a significant donor and stand by that proudly. That is because Diana Ferrera is a phenomenal candidate with extremely high character and integrity. She has remained thoughtful, open, honest and consistent throughout her campaign and shown the desire to listen to and speak with anyone. She wants to make real contributions to our community and school district and remains focused on exactly that.

    Despite the unfortunate angle of this article and defamatory comments from another candidate, I’m certain that Diana will continue to run a positive, objective campaign focused on the specific needs of our wonderful school district, its staff and its students.

  4. I am not an expert in campaign finance, but I find it deeply concerning that a candidate has taken to posting on this site to criticize other candidates. Mr. Boone wrote about putting our children first. How does negative campaigning create a culture that will help the students in our school district. This is exactly how we should be teaching our children to not act. Is this the way Mr. Boone will treat residents who ask questions at Board meetings – as “fine, if not misguided people?” This article makes me want to vote more for Ferrera and Spiegland, as it is clear based on these comments that they are the ones who are “rocking the boat” and are the threat to the Mr. Boone, who has advertised a meet and greet with Sara Drappi, an incumbent running for re-election who is known for her condescending and dismissive statements to parents and others at board meetings.

  5. Why are candidates raising money from folks outside of our community? Why are they raising money from people with this sort of reputation:

    https://www.nj.com/essex/2014/04/belleville_councilwomans_alleged_racist_tirade_authenticated_by_forensics_lab_mayor_says.html

    Folks from Nutley and Belleville shouldn’t be trying to influence our local election. Based on the quality of the public schools in those communities maybe they are the wrong people to make judgements on how we run our schools.

  6. I would like to hear from these two candidates about the significant contributions coming from outside of Verona. Did this reporter ask them to respond? Why do these candidates think these out of town contributions were made? I am not discrediting any candidate by asking this question – But I think it would be disqualify if they can’t or won’t answer questions about out of town contributions made to their campaigns.

  7. Interesting how no one batted an eye when the teachers union influenced the election with $8k of teacher’s hard earned money. These people donated their money of their own free will. Did the teachers?

  8. This is very disturbing. Local elections in Verona should be determined by people who live in Verona, not people who throw money into them from outside (and don’t tell me such things don’t try to determine elections; that is the whole point of fiscally supporting a candidate).Moreover, the campaign spending on these elections should be capped at $1,000. If you can’t win based on your own experience and the campaign platform you share in public forums, rather than papering an entire neighborhood with signs, you shouldn’t be running. They are creating a financial entry bar for people to even consider running. Do people really want elections won by the highest bidder? The fact that one family, outside this town, is supporting two different people for BOE with outsized donations should make any sensible person raise their eyebrows and wonder what is going on here. If this leaves you feeling a little queasy, there’s probably a good reason.

  9. And just for the record I thought it was ludicrous that the teachers union gave that much money to a candidate and many of were very vocal in our condemnation of it.

  10. Not surprised by myverona and its one sided reporting…..  same one-sided junk reporting during Roy’s [sic] horrendous attempt at leadership during Covid.
    If anybody is trying to steer an election in a direction it is myverona and associated parties….
    I did hold Mike Boone to a higher standard however he has shown what I DON’T want in a BOE candidate by trying to win an election through discrediting tabloid targeted opponents who are decent community members….  We already have BOE board member arrogance do we want another one?
    No for Boone…

  11. RE: “These people donated their money of their own free will” (from a comment above related to this current BOE election).

    I’ve been wondering something similar, but related to this line from the above myveronanj article: “….amounts came from a campaign fund of Belleville Councilwoman Marie Strumolo-Burke…”.

    Did those funds come from various Belleville residents, who at some point in the past, donated to a prior campaign with the intention of helping Marie Strumolo-Burke win an election in Belleville? If yes, when they donated for that specific purpose did they think that their funds would eventually be used to directly influence a different election, in a different town, for a different position, for a different candidate?

    Obviously, I do not know the original source(s) of those funds nor do I want to make any assumptions. My thoughts/questions are more related to campaign finance in general, from local to national elections. From my perspective, it seems to me that campaign finance reform (at all levels) is something that needs to be seriously looked at in this country. We’ll never be able to remove money from politics, but it sounds like there are some good ideas out there that could help impart some balance to the equation. I do like Laura’s idea, above, of implementing spending caps on campaigns.

    Lastly, looping back to the teacher’s union – The money that eventually lands in the NJEA Political Action Committee’s coffers starts upstream in our collective wallets and then moves, by way of local property taxes, to the BOE for the purpose of teacher salaries/total compensation. At that point, it then moves to the NJEA by way of union dues paid by the teachers. In essence, the funds used by the NJEA to influence elections are coming from all of us, and we don’t have any input on which campaigns the NJEA donates our money to. I don’t like that arrangement at all.

  12. This political piece seems to be insinuating these relatives shouldn’t have an interest in the education of their grandchildren or their young relatives or the success of a loved one’s run for office.

    I suppose all the other candidates would have not wanted a generous donation to be handed to them unless it came from a Verona source! Would they have turned it down? Or will we never know because it seems they hardly received donations from anyone living in Verona or out.
    As stated in previous comments made by readers, candidates should have been contacted for responses. And some of the other candidates should have restrained themselves from making negative comments about their fellow candidates.

  13. Troubling as all this is, remember that war chests don’t necessarily win elections. Just look at Nochimson’s failed Council bid. What I find more troubling, however, is that the Spiegeland campaign is funded in part by a woman who uses the N-word in her vocabulary. (See link provided by Mark Willner, above.) How do you defend that, Mr. Spiegeland?

  14. In retrospect, I’d like to retract and apologize for the accusatory tone, Mr. Spiegeland. I don’t know you or any of your financial supporters, who I believe have a First Amendment right to support anyone they choose to, as applicable by law.

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