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Spiegeland Takes More Outside Money For BOE Race

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Aaron Spiegeland has added another $5,050 to his campaign funds for the November Board of Education election, and almost half of it is from sources outside Verona.

According to a report that his campaign posted to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission for its October 27 deadline, Spiegeland received $1,500 from Anthony Calandra of Newark and $1,000 from Dominique Paulin of Essex Fells. In addition, Spiegeland got an additional $2,500 from Joanna Rolleczek, who is listed as residing at the same Verona address as Christian Strumolo, Spiegeland’s campaign manager. Rolleczek was listed on Spiegeland’s the first donation report from Diana Ferrera as giving $2,500. Paulin previously gave $1,000 to Ferrera.

According to the Commission, Spiegeland has raised $14,300 for his race. Of that, $6,600 has come from donors outside Verona, or 46%. Asked why he has taken so much outside money to run for a position that only involves Verona, Spiegeland said, “It’s important to educate residents on our platform and anyone who supports our position is free to contribute to our campaign.”

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Diana Ferrera, who shares a campaign manager and treasurer with Spiegeland, reported $550 in additional contributions on her October 27 filing, $500 of which was an additional donation from Mike Dupree, a Verona resident who was listed in the last report as having given $500. Ferrera has received $12,100 in total donations to date, of which $4,000, or 33%, was from people who are not 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.

Mike Boone, Sara Drappi and Denise Verzella,  the three other candidates in the race, reported no additional donations for the October 27 deadline. Boone has pledged to self-fund his campaign and has spent just $455, while Drappi said two weeks ago that she raised just over $1,000 for her campaign. Verzella has reported raising $1,390.43. None of these three candidates has taken money from outside Verona.

Despite the amount of outside money in the Spiegeland and Ferrera campaigns, another recent Verona election has had more. 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, accounting for 52% of his total donations. This week, many Verona residents received letter sent under Tamburro’s home address in Verona that was a copy of the letter posted online under his name endorsing Ferrera and Spiegeland. Tamburro has not responded to an email from MyVeronaNJ asking if he paid to send the letter, which could have cost roughly $3,000 in postage if it was sent to all Verona households. Neither the Ferrera nor Spiegeland campaign has reported that kind of mailer expense. The campaigns must submit a final donations and spending report once the election is over.

MyVeronaNJ has interviewed all of the candidates and has posted a recap of the Conference of SCAs candidates forum. The election is Tuesday, November 8. Early voting closes Sunday, November 6

NOTE: A previous version of this story said that Spiegeland had twice received a donation of $2,500 from Joanna Rolleczek. He only received one, which was reported in the October 27 filing with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Diana Ferrera received one donation from Rolleczek of $2,500 that was reported on her October 9 filing. In that report, Ferrera also got $1,000 from Dominique Paulin. Paulin then donated $1,000 to Spiegeland, which was reported in his October 27 filing. Robert De Marino, the treasurer of both the Ferrera and Spiegeland campaigns, says that his records show that 72.6% of the total contributed dollars to Ferrera, including donations of less than $300, came from Verona residents. The Election Law Enforcement Commission reports do not show addresses or names on contributions of less than $300, so MyVeronaNJ could not independently confirm that.

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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]

4 COMMENTS

  1. As I have asked Councilman Tamburro privately, with no response, did he do this mailing in coordination with the candidates and did either/both candidates fund the mailing. Both are important questions, and if either is a yes, that information should have been disclosed to the voters. I am hoping for transparency regarding this issue.

  2. First, I’m surprised any candidate would welcome the endorsement of Councilman Tamburro, given his prior objection to the proclamation to light up our municipal building orange to support gun safety awareness. It seems to me that when he expressly equated “gun safety awareness” with an “ideological” attack “veiled as gun safety” that would “alienate a portion of our municipality” he ceded the moral authority to be taken seriously when opining about what he thinks is best for our kids or our schools.(Particularly since he conveniently abandoned his objection and reversed course and signed the proclamation after 18 kids were murdered by a gun at a school in Uvalde the day after he made his comments). I can’t think of anyone – gun owner or not – who doesn’t support gun safety awareness. His comments demonstrate that he is the one who is “ideologically” driven and out of touch, and any endorsement by him actually makes me far less likely to support his chosen candidate(s). As such, like the prior poster, I would also be interested to know if Mr. Tamburro coordinated with the either or both of the campaigns when mailing his endorsement.

    Second, to the extent some folks are taking the position (both on this site, and in comments I’ve seen on social media) that it is somehow inappropriate to report on where the BOE candidates are getting their donations from, I disagree. There are a number of reasons why election donations over a certain threshold must be reported to the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission, not the least of which is that it helps ensure confidence in our public election process and transparent governance. At the state level, for example, it helps ensure that pay to play laws aren’t violated. And even at the BOE level, knowing where a candidate’s campaign contributions originated provides voters with one more piece of information (in addition to candidate statements, campaign platforms, endorsements by individuals and groups, etc.) when deciding who to vote for. For example, imagine a scenario where an individual made a hefty donation to one or more BOE candidates, and those candidates (once elected) voted to award a large contract to provide services to the school district to a company owned by the individual who made the hefty donation. This might raise questions about whether the contract awarded was in the best interest of the school district, or whether it was instead made in exchange for the prior contribution (or to help ensure a future contribution). This is the type of information voters might want to know – so they can evaluate for themselves whether the board members’ actions were taken to benefit the district, or, conversely, to benefit themselves. You might not personally think it’s a big deal that 78% of the $27,899.50 in contributions to candidates Ferrera and Spiegeland that have been reported to the NJ Election Commission have come from folks who either don’t reside in Verona or who are members of the same family, and that’s fine. It’s fine if you don’t care where they got their money from, or if it has no impact on your decision about you will be voting for. But to suggest that voters as a whole shouldn’t have access to this information, or don’t have the right to ask questions about it, or consider it when making their decision on who to vote for, is simply at odds with having an open and transparent election process. Some folks may care about where contributions to the candidates running for the BOE come from, and others may not. I’m not here to debate whether it means something or anything or nothing at all. But I am here to advocate for an open and transparent process so voters are able to evaluate all of the available information about the candidates running for the BOE, and decide for themselves whether they think the candidates who are receiving very large donations will or will not be beholden to any special interests or particular individuals should they be elected to office, and/or whether such donations were made with the expectation, or understanding, that a candidate will vote a certain way should they be elected. Wherever you ultimately land on the answers to these questions, I think we can all agree that having access to information about election contributions is critical to ensuring transparent governance.

  3. Mr. Tamburro responded to an email from MyVeronaNJ last night to say that he did not send the letter to anyone by mail. “The only resource I put into the public personal endorsement was my personal time,” he said.

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