PARSIPPANY, N.J. (AP) — A northern New Jersey school district has sued its superintendent in a bid to recover almost $38,000 in alleged salary overpayments he received under a contract the state forced it to rescind.
The Daily Record of Parsippany reports the Parsippany-Troy Hills school district recently filed the lawsuit in administrative court, saying it had no other legal alternative to recoup the funds from Lee Seitz. But the district also claims state officials asked them to take illegal action against Seitz and ignored their requests for clarifications on directives they received.
The district seeks the return of $37,733.73 in its lawsuit, which is tentatively scheduled to be heard on June 18. It was filed as part of a counterclaim by the state to a complaint Seitz filed last year against state officials and the board.
The superintendent alleges that Executive Morris County Superintendent Kathleen Serafino exceeded her authority when she ordered his contract rescinded. Seitz also claims the deal had been approved by Serafino before its terms were publicized.
Parsippany School Board President Frank Calabria declined to comment on the district’s suit, telling the newspaper that he’s been advised by counsel to not discuss pending litigation. State officials also declined to comment for similar reasons, while Seitz’s attorney did not respond to messages seeking comment.
State officials contend the district paid Seitz more money than allowed under a state salary cap, saying district leaders signed a contract that had not received proper authorization from the state. Serafino had recommended the district deduct money from Seitz’s paycheck. But district officials have said that would be illegal, claiming that withholding pay could expose employees to civil liability or criminal charges.
Seitz was being paid a salary of $220,565, which is about $43,000 more than the $177,500 allowed by a state cap. The contract was signed in November 2010, a few months before the cap went into effect in February 2011.
The school board rescinded the contract last July, under the threat of losing $3.6 million in state aid. But it continued to pay Seitz at the same rate for months, saying his attorney argued that the salary remained in effect until a new deal was in place.
The lawsuit is the latest turn in the lengthy fight between the district and state officials over how much Seitz should be paid. It has drawn the attention of Gov. Chris Christie, who has labeled the superintendent as a “poster boy” for greed.
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