Friday, August 27, 2010

Schundler's Departure Is A Sad Spectacle

By Art Gallagher

Anybody who saw the U.S Department of Education video that contradicted Governor Chris Christie's statements about New Jersey's "Race To The Top" application, and who heard Christie on NJ101.5 yesterday evening, knew that someone was going to be fired or resign today.

The only question was who? Bret Schundler, someone who worked under Schundler, or both.

Just in case you've heard Senate President Sweeney's babble or the NJEA's squeals on the matter, Schundler wasn't shown the door because NJ lost out on $400 million in federal education dollars due to a missing page in the application. Schundler was fired because he wasn't completely straight with his boss, Governor Christie.

The Governor's office has been careful not to use the L word today regarding Schundler. But the message was clear. If Schundler didn't outright lie, he wasn't straight enough. When your on a team with Christie, or someone who performs at the level which Christie performs there is no room for parsing of words or being cute. When your playing a supporting role to someone like Christie, there is no room for misunderstanding--the player in the supporting role must make sure the boss understands. Being on a team with Christie requires the level of trust that flying trapeze performers have for each other. If a flying trapeze performer doesn't trust that his partner will be there to catch him he can't swing out. If he trusts his partner, swings out and his partner isn't there to catch him he crashes, hopefully into a net.

As we have seen over the last eight months, Christie swings way out and flys. He so trusted Schundler's account of what happened with the RTT application that he was swinging out in a classic performance. For the second time in two weeks rhetorically taking on the Obama administration. Schundler left Christie exposed. He was swinging from a bad rope and crashed. With that trust broken Schundler could no longer be on the team.

Schundler's performance in the last 24 hours since Christie saw the video is more embarrassing than the error that caused the termination. He should have submitted his resignation when it was requested and avoided the press at least through the weekend.

His statement that he did not resign because he needs unemployment benefits until he gets a job, and that the administration when along with that, is appalling. He obviously was not thinking clearly. Understandably so. His instincts were good when he told Politickernj, "I don't want to talk right now." He shouldn't have talked to the Star Ledger either.

Senate Minority Leader Barbara Buono jumped all over this, according to the Ledger, accusing Christie of perpetuating a fraud by allowing Schundler to collect unemployment benefits:

State Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), said she was "just blown away" that the governor agreed to fire Schundler after asking for his resignation and said Christie "should be accountable under the law of helping to perpetrate a fraud."

"The facts as I understand them, the stated purpose of asking the governor's office to fire him instead of resigning, was so he will then qualify to receive unemployment benefits from the State of New Jersey that he would not otherwise qualify for," Buono said.

Schundler is not going to get unemployment benefits.

The statement issued by the Governor's press secretary Mike Drewniak early this evening makes it clear that Schundler was terminated for cause:

“We regret that Mr. Schundler continues to sully his own image by engaging in revisionist history. His attempts to cover up misleading the Governor are evidenced by the contrast between his letter to Secretary Duncan, in which he describes making a verbal clarification at the presentation, and the video released by the U.S. Department of Education. Mr. Schundler was the Administration’s only source for what occurred in the Race to the Top presentation. All of the Governor’s statements were based on Mr. Schundler’s account.”

That's going to be hard to overcome when the unemployment office calls for an interview. Then again, you never know with the folks at the unemployment office. I've had an employee get benefits for six months even when I told the interviewer I wanted the person to come back to work immediately.

A guy like Schundler shouldn't need unemployment benefits, which max out at $600 per week, anyway. For $600 per week he can sell advertising and write for MoreMonmouthMusings until he lands on his feet. I'm sure I'm not the only business person who would put him to work.

Schundler's performance is not the only sad spectacle of the day.

Trenton Democrats, Sweeney, Oliver, Diegnan, and the NJEA are enjoying the first misstep of the Christie administration with glee. Yet their spin is that Christie is making Schundler the scapegoat for losing out of the $400 million. They probably just can't imagine firing someone for lying.

Christie did what he had to do. I hope the Democrats' partisan and disingenous attacks keep coming, because I want the combative Chris Christie back. I'd rather see him sparring with Sweeney, Oliver and the unions than President Obama, as he did in both the RTT and Mosque press conferences. As we enter campaign season, I'd rather see him taking shots at Frank Pallone, Rush Holt and John Adler, than President Obama. Christie should stop taking shots at Obama and get back to turning Trenton upside down, especially if he wants to quell the speculation that he is running for President.


Still love ya, Bret.. said...

what a loss, for a dumb mistake: it looked, and looks more now to me, like Schundler was a "token" cabinet appointment to the conserv's in the party, and methinks all this media-hype on radio and tv, for our few-months Gov., may be going a bit to his Bruce-music-filled head!!..still think Bret had better fiscal and business ideas, and would've been a great Gov.. he made, and can make, his own fortune,so,won't starve for sure, and because he tried to save an aide, he's now been made the example: tow the line and don't ever mess-up,or out ya go!!..and,ps: did we REALLY think NJ with a GOP gov. right now, was going to get gifted from NObama, anyhow??.. don't be naive!

Conservative Guy said...

The underlying problem is Governor Christie's attempt to get the Federal money (which is really money that Obama stole from our children and grandchildren) in the first place. We do not want this! Let the NJEA suck it up now that they don't have the money. They did nothing but obstruct getting the money, which would have been spent on their members. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. I hope the NJEA are the first to get put fully on Obama care, since they like Obama so much.

Lonegan for Education Commissioner

Anna Little for Congress


RESPECT THE 9-11 families NO MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO, build it somewhere else.

Mr. Christie, act like the conservative you campaigned as and CUT THE SPENDING!

We are going to take this country back and restore prosperity by making the government serve the people starting in November.

Anonymous said...

I still haven't seen Gov. Christina apologize to President Obama or anyone else he blamed with his raging and sarcastic attacks.

TR said...

If you read todays paper Schundler has emails that show he told the governors people the figures could not be corrected. That is he didn't lie.
it also appears that the right number might have been in there at one time but got "lost " somewhere along the way.
I beleive what happened was that someone maybe a dem holdover in the DOE and /or the AG's office sabotaged this.

Christies staff then tried to blame the Federal government and when that backfired made Schundler the Fall Guy.

Anonymous said...

The super sized windbag thinks he's too big to apologize.

Let Bret Collect said...

Art, are you sure that someone who is fired for misconduct cannot receive unemployment benefits in New Jersey? I just checked the NJ Department of Labor's website. According to them, someone fired for regular misconduct can receive unemployment benefits after waiting six weeks.

New Jersey Department of Labor

Anonymous said...

I remember how Bret Schundler flip-flopped on gun control during his campaign for governor against McGreevey. To New Jersey gun owners, Schundler is Judas.

I hope that bad karma bites you right in the ass, Bret.

Art Gallagher said...

Let Bret Collect said...
Art, are you sure that someone who is fired for misconduct cannot receive unemployment benefits in New Jersey? I just checked the NJ Department of Labor's website. According to them, someone fired for regular misconduct can receive unemployment benefits after waiting six weeks.

I'm not sure. As I have written previously, I had an former employee get benefits, over my protest, even though I had a job available for the person.

The key word in the page you linked is may. It seems to me that the rules for granting unemployment benefits are much more flexible than the rules for granting Race to the Top awards.

The only thing I am sure of regarding unemployment benefits is that the premiums my company pays are over 2X the amount of the state payroll taxes we pay on a quarterly basis.

This was the "straw that broke the camel's back" for me as I let people go when the economy tanked. It is keeping me from hiring people now and suppressing the wages I pay.

The other thing that I am pretty sure of is that as a business owner I can't collect, yet, as the owner, I pay the personal premium and the employer premium. This caused me to cut my own salary by 75%.

Just yesterday a young woman entering her senior year in collage asked me how I got into my business. She was looking towards the future and inquirying how I and others ended up where they did.

My answer is that I took a job that I was vastly over qualified for rather than accept unemployment benefits. The owner of the leasing company didn't want to hire me because of my qualifications. "You're just trying to learn this business to start your own," he said. That was the first time the thought of starting a leasing company occurred to me. I just wanted a paycheck rather than unemployment check while I found my next real job.

"That hadn't occured to me," I told him, "But you're spending $2500 a week in advertising to make the phone ring and you've got two guys who can't close a door answering those calls." He hired me on the spot.

This situation with Schundler is a mess. It could dominate the headlines throughout the fall, derailing Christie's reform agenda and "tool kit" legislation. It could be a distraction from the congressional campaigns. It could give previously demoralized Democrats throughout New Jersey an issue that puts them back in the game.

All of that is a matter of concern.

But what deeply concerns me is that as a culture we've so given up our sense of personal responsiblity that a guy with the talent and skills of Bret Schunlder, a so called conservative, would grab for the government tit first and then look for a job or business opportunity later.

We really have become a nanny state.