Mayor's pick for Camden school board ineligible

Camden Mayor Dana Redd
Camden Mayor Dana Redd
Posted: April 25, 2013

In an effort to get another Latino on the Camden Board of Education, Mayor Dana L. Redd turned to City Council President Frank Moran for recommendations for the latest openings.

Moran has been cultivating a pool of young Latino leaders. Last year, he backed Felicia Reyes-Morton for the school board, and she was one of two members who stood by the mayor last month in support of the state takeover of the school district.

So, at Moran's suggestion, Redd last week appointed 33-year-old Jennifer Martinez, a city business owner.

But Martinez was never eligible to become a school board member because her primary residence is in Winslow Township, where she serves on the planning board. State law requires a year of city residency.

Martinez withdrew her name last week. She said Tuesday that she had reconsidered the post because of her pregnancy.

The day after Martinez's appointment was announced, Camden spokesman Robert Corrales said he was not aware of any issues with Martinez's residency.

"Council president recommended her," Corrales said.

Redd did not double-check Martinez's residence, Corrales said. "She took his word for it. . . . She wanted a Latino leader."

On Tuesday, Moran called the residency issue "an oversight."

"Once I became aware she is not a bona fide resident, I made the recommendation she withdraw, and she did immediately," Moran said, adding that Martinez was also closer to having a baby than he initially thought.

Martinez said she realized the job would be too much for her as she prepares to give birth.

"It would be too much for the baby. . . . I have three months left," Martinez said.

Martinez, who was appointed to the Winslow planning board in January, plans to continue that role.

"I only withdrew from the school board," she said.

When questioned about her eligibility to serve on the Camden school board, Martinez said she owns a house in Camden. She also owns a food-distribution company there, JEM Foods on Kaighns Avenue.

Moran said he has been "cultivating" a group of young Latino leaders to serve in Camden, such as Falio Leyba-Martinez, a Parking Authority commissioner, and Reyes-Morton.

"It's about opening doors to these folks who grew up here, went and got an education, and came back," Moran said.

As someone with a business background, he thought Martinez would be a good addition to the school board.

But her business and properties weren't enough for a legal board qualification.

School board members in Type I and Type II districts must have been district residents for one year, said Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. Camden is a Type I district.

"She said she lived in the city," Moran said. "I didn't go knock on her door."

Moran said he now has recommended Taisha Minier, another Latina up-and-comer, who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and will graduate from Rowan University in a few weeks.

"She does live in Camden," Moran said.

Redd, however, has not made any more appointment decisions, Corrales said Tuesday. The mayor also is trying to find a replacement for Kathryn Ribay, who resigned after Gov. Christie's takeover announcement last month.

The state is expected to officially take over the district in the fall, which will result in the board's role being reduced to advisory.

Redd's other new appointment to the nine-member school board is Dorothy Burley, a longtime Camden resident, former city clerk, and active member in the local Democratic Party. Her daughter, Dana, is a city councilwoman.

The two openings were created when the mayor decided not to reappoint board members Sean Brown and Ray Lamboy.

School Board President Kathryn Blackshear was reappointed to the board last week. Burley and Blackshear will be sworn in at the board's reorganization meeting in May.

Contact Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917,, or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," at

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