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Special Toms River School Board Meeting To Discuss “Clean Slate” Email

An e-mail is just another issue drawing a line in the sand between members of the Toms River Board of Education who ran under the Clean Slate platform and members who were in office during the administration of the former superintendent, Mike Ritacco.

Toms River school board candidates
Toms River school board candidates (Ben Giovine)

The nine member board will have a special session Friday to discuss the possibility of legislation against three board candidates, who are running on the Clean Slate platform, over an email blast they sent to a number of district employees through their work emails-which is against district policy. In 2009 the district obtained a superior court injunction against two school board candidates for similar reasons.

The mass email, which was sent out on October 4th on behalf of candidates Ginny Rhine, Joe Torrone, and Gigi Esparza, was to rally support and included school district and non-school district emails.
Citing the prior incident, Toms River Superintendent Frank Roselli says he felt it was important to have the Board decide on action.

“When this information came to my attention, rather than the administration authorizing the suit I had a discussion with our school board president Mr. Garrity and we made the decision that we should just bring it to the board.”

Alex Pavliv, a current board member who was elected under the Clean Slate platform, believes there is no substantiation to the board’s desire for litigation and calls it “utterly frivolous”. Noting the trio of candidates contracted a company that collects email addresses from third party sources, and blasts them to roughly forty thousand voters in Toms River, of which 65 had trschools.com addresses.

“Therefore any concept of privacy or this address belonging to the Toms River Board of Ed is nonsense. This would be akin to you having a house in Florida and a house in New Jersey and you list your New Jersey Address where you get all your junk mail to and Florida just the address you give to just your friends and all you receive there are personal correspondence, Christmas cards, etc.”

He notes once teachers use their trschools.com address into any kind of database that sells it to marketers, it’s no longer private.

“Here it’s political speech to a public address. The suit is groundless and baseless this just really shows that although Ritacco is gone, his stench remains.” says Pavliv.
The issue of cost over a lawsuit is one Pavliv says could get costly. Noting the board would use their attorney Thomas Monahan. As for the candidates, Paviliv says they would have to be responsible for their own council. However, as an attorney, Pavliv explains internet law is a developing field, this issue is rooted in the First Amendment.  “This is a matter that I could easily see taken from the law division, to the appellate division, and ultimately the Supreme Court.”
However Roselli disagrees, noting the issue won’t become partisan.

“I highly doubt that any board member is going to vote in favor of a frivolous lawsuit. I highly doubt that was going to happen.”

Regardless of how the Board proceeds, Pavliv has no doubt the candidates will not be deterred from their campaigns.
“It’s a silly issue, even I the court was to grant, in my opinion unconstitutional, prior restraint the campaign would go on. I assume they still have mass mailing to regular street PO boxes and some of them may have other email addresses as well.”

Pavliv claims this situation is a repeat of an incident that occurred in 2009 where similar litigation was brought up against insurgent candidates Charlie Henry and Mary Gethered.

“I remember that case because I represented Charlie and Mary but in that election it was three days away and there was no funding for a legal battle so we just let the restraint lay.”

Roselli was criticized for his decision to pursue legal action with the board for this offense, while conducting a private investigation for allegations of board member Gus Kakavas distributing an flyer on school grounds. However Roselli contends they are completely different situations, with the flyer incident being a mistake on the part of a district union.
“So one has nothing to do with the other. The one we’re talking about now is a very specific violation of state statues. The other matter was totally the responsibility of a union in our school district.”

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