Analysis: Does SDA Scandal Show Gov. Murphy Lacks Leadership?
Facing intense questions about hiring practices at the Schools Development Authority, CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco has resigned.
Delgado-Polanco, a former union boss and vice president at the State Democratic Committee, fired veteran SDA staffers to make room for friends and relatives who did not appear to be qualified for the jobs she gave them. Appearing before the Assembly Budget Committee, Delgado-Polaco was defiant, claiming she just did what any new CEO does when they take a job, and refused to answer lawmakers’ questions.
Senate President Steve Sweeney warned she would face a tougher time in his chamber, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo sent a letter to Delgado-Polanco demanding “complete answers” to hiring questions, NorthJersey.com reported. They will not get those answers from her. Her last day is Friday.
The SDA already consumes over $1 billion taxpayer dollars per year, and is asking for more. Sweeney continues to push for the abolition of the SDA, and folding school construction projects into the Economic Development Authority. Amid the SDA scandals, there is growing support in the legislature for Sweeney’s plan, although Murphy continues to resist. He has largely remained silent on the scandals at the SDA, offering only a general “we’ll come back to you,” weeks ago. He still hasn’t, and offered no comment on Delgado-Polanco’s resignation.
This may be a battle not worth fighting for Murphy, but he's fought several losing battles. Murphy was outmaneuvered during last years’ budget battle; he has continued to push for higher taxes despite strong resistance among fellow Democrats; and he missed badly when he prematurely declared a deal on legalizing marijuana. Murphy has struggled to find allies in the legislature, even among Democrats.
Given the broadening scandal, there was little question among most in Trenton that Delgado-Polanco had to go, but Murphy might have presented himself as a strong and decisive leader had he fired Delgado-Polanco when the patronage allegations came to light. Instead, Murphy had little to say as the his handpicked CEO was pilloried in the press and the legislature. Had he fired Delgado-Polanco, he might have saved the SDA; now it’s more likely to be defunded during the budget process and folded into another agency.