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Report: Schools authority hired chief’s friends, relatives

February 25, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A state authority already under scrutiny in connection with a sexual misconduct scandal has hired people with personal connections to the agency’s chief executive officer and her family, a newspaper report alleges.

The Record reported Monday that recent hires by the Schools Development Authority have included the second cousin of CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco and the mother of her grandchild. Delgado-Polanco is vice president of the state Democratic party and was appointed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

The authority told the newspaper that the schools authority’s new employees were highly qualified and possess the necessary skills to succeed in their roles. The authority declined to provide job postings or descriptions for the new hires. The authority didn’t return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday.

The schools authority is at the center of an investigation by lawmakers after revelations that its former chief of staff, Albert Alvarez, was hired even though members of Murphy’s transition team knew of sexual assault allegations made against him by a campaign worker. Alvarez has denied the allegations.

Since she was hired last August, Delgado-Polanco has overseen a restructuring of the authority that resulted in the termination of 26 employees, some of whom were replaced by people connected to her, the newspaper reported.

One of those was a second cousin, Kenia Nunez-Acuna, who was earning $110,000 as a deputy director of grants. Nunez-Acuna resigned three weeks ago, after the newspaper questioned the authority about a sexual harassment complaint against her in a previous job.

Another hire, Laury-Ann Diaz, is the mother of Delgado-Polanco’s grandchild and is a former operations director for the Democratic State Committee, according to the newspaper. She earns $110,000 as deputy director of external affairs.

In addition, the newspaper reported 10 former employees either worked for or were represented by the unions Delgado-Polanco previously worked for, according to an analysis of public records and social media.

Delgado-Polanco’s husband and daughter both were recently hired to state government jobs in other departments, according to public records reviewed by the newspaper.

The schools authority was formed in 2002 as the Schools Construction Corporation to spend $6 billion upgrading schools in the state’s neediest communities. It eventually ran out of money and was re-formed as the Schools Development Authority. It manages about $11 billion in construction projects.

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Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com