I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cerf's Up

Acting NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf has a conflict of interest? I'm just shocked:
NEWARK — A consulting firm hired by Newark’s mayor to overhaul the city’s failing schools was founded a few months ago by Christopher D. Cerf, the state’s acting education commissioner, and still lists his Montclair home as its New Jersey address.
The firm, Global Education Advisors, is at the heart of a controversial proposal to open nearly a dozen new charter schools — a move that would reshuffle thousands of city kids and one that has already drawn angry response from parents.
Cerf acknowledged Tuesday that he had a hand in the creation of the firm, but said he was no longer connected with it. He said he is now merely lending his address to the consulting firm because it needed a New Jersey mailing address. "When this little consulting company was formed, I was part of the creation of it," he said. "I severed my relationship to it literally right after its formation. I have never received any compensation from it."
He said he never did anything with the company. "I have no presence or association with it. I have never taken a nickel from it," he said. "I never actually did anything with it, so I’m not in any way, shape or form related to it."
He asked The Star-Ledger not to publish this story because he said he did not think it was very important.[emphasis mine]
He just wants to make sure the S-L isn't wasting their time. What a guy.

You know, I seem to recall something similar in Cerf's past...
The full report from the Special Commissioner of Investigation is here. Cerf solicited a contribution from an executive at Liberty Partners: the same firm that worked out the buy-out of Edison using the Florida teachers' pension fund.

Now, in fairness, the report also makes this point:
By subpoena, SCI obtained documents from Edison and Liberty pertaining to the
stock in the privately-held company. According to Edison's operating agreement and information provided to SCI by Edison's counsel, before Cerf could redeem his Edison shares, Liberty would have to sell the company at a profit. The attorney also asserted that Cerf's Class B shares were worthless. He explained that in the event that Edison was sold, the company's creditors and several categories of Class A shareholders would receive preferential payment before Cerf's Class B shares could be redeemed.
The report states, however, that Cerf knew his shares could have value in the future. It also describes a deal where Cerf would be paid as a consultant after leaving Edison as amends for not being paid when Edison was bought out by Liberty.

I'm hardly a financial expert, and it may very well be that Cerf's shares of Edison were as worthless as he claimed. What the report does make clear, however, is that Cerf considered the charitable donation to the Darrow Foundation - which supports a wilderness camp for children - to be a quid pro quo for giving up his interest in Edison.

It's also quite clear that Cerf gave up his interest only when it became evident that he was about to be publicly embarrassed. Unfortunately, given the large parts of the report that have been redacted, the entire matter is hardly clear-cut.
This guy is slicker than snot. If you read my full report on his past, you'll find - over and over - that he always manages to work his web of connections to benefit his buds and himself as he continues to slip back and forth between the public and private education sector.

Again, we are fast approaching the days where our education system becomes a feeding trough for corporate interests, just like our military. We cannot let the Chris Cerfs of the world start erecting Haliburton Highs all over this state at the expense of the taxpayers and our children.

ADDING: NJ Newsroom has more. They skimped on Cerf's NYC years - read the Jazzman, folks, I'll get you up to speed.


Leonie Haimson said...

Truly this guy is a serial offender.

Duke said...

Leonie, take him back to NYC with you! We don't want him! ;-)

jcg said...

At the time Cerf was hired by Christie, I tried to post your link about his nefarious past on HuffPo but HuffPo blocked the comment. So much for citizen journalism.

Hopefully, NJ citizens will wake up and give Christie the boot in 2012.

Duke said...

Thanks jcg. Tell Arianna that I would settle for a very small portion of the $315 mil she's getting from AOL if she would like to publish my stuff.