TRENTON-Despite multiple scandals under his watch as chairman of the School Development Authority, Governor Phil Murphy announced he has full confidence in the leadership of Jackson Township resident Robert Nixon and newly appointed Authority CEO Manny Da DaSilva.
DaSilva replaced Lizette Delgado who has been accused of running the agency as her own personal patronage pit, awarding high paying jobs to friends, family and political allies. Nixon, was chairman of the authority during its contentious period of out of control hiring and during the hearings about the harboring of an accused rapist, Al Alvarez. Both Delgado and Alvarez were forced out of the SDA amidst those scandals.
“SDA Board Chair Rob Nixon and Interim SDA CEO Manny Da Silva Have My Full and Unwavering Support to Make Any Management Decisions They Deem Necessary Based on the Findings of These Reports,” Phil Murphy said.
Nixon, who identifies as a Republican was appointed by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and works as a lobbyist for the State Policeman’s Benevolent Association. He also serves as a councilman on Jackson Township’s non-partisan municipal council. In recent months, Nixon’s name has surfaced often as a successor to Ocean County Freehold Joseph Vicari among party insiders. Nixon is currently facing a discrimination lawsuit filed by Agudath Israel of America. His administration in Jackson is also under investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General and federal authorities.
The two outside legal reviews into corruption at the SDA, one conducted by DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin, LLP concerning allegations of file tampering and the other performed by Carmagnola & Ritardi, LLC investigating the 2018 reorganization and hiring practices at the SDA, were submitted to the Division of Law at the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal.
“When allegations of impropriety were first raised about personnel actions at the SDA, my administration took swift action to investigate these matters in a fair and appropriate manner through the retention of outside counsel,” said Governor Murphy.
Despite the excessive amount of corruption and patronage reported within the SDA, Nixon has hopes that the SDA can rebuild and repair its tarnished image.
“The SDA has a track record of success delivering quality schools throughout New Jersey so it’s important that we take time for self-reflection and demonstrate a willingness to improve,” Nixon said. “I therefore fully support Interim CEO Da Silva’s restructuring plan to implement the recommendations of our internal audit and the finding of the independent legal counsel.”
There is now a bi-partisan movement within the New Jersey Assembly and Senate to abolish the authority. Bill S-3268, entitled “Educational Facilities Construction and Funding Act” was introduced in December of 2018. S-32568 if passed, would transfer all the functions, powers, duties, and employees of the SDA to the Economic Development Authority. The bill thereby consolidates all the construction and financing authority for school facilities projects in a single State authority, the EDA.
In the assembly, bill A4908 also calls for the dissolution of the embattled agency.