Tuesday, May 2, 2017


The apparent theft of more than $1,100 in books from Columbia High School allegedly by a custodian has not resulted in any arrests, according to district and police officials. But they have not explained why.

A Maplewood Police report of the incident indicates it apparently occurred between the evening of April 5 and the morning of April 6. 

It states that the custodian was seen on video surveillance taking books valued at approximately $1,107.65 from an office, placing some in a dumpster outside and others in his vehicle. The report names a suspected employee, but we have withheld the name and all of those involved other than police out of respect for their privacy.

See that portion of the report below:

See the entire report HERE. A follow-up to the report dated April 25, indicated that charges were not filed and the incident was no longer being investigated as a theft, but with no reason why.

Asked why the incident was no longer being investigated, Maplewood Police Capt. Dawn Williams said via email:

"I will clarify that the matter is not being investigated as a theft as a result of information that was learned regarding the matter. Any further details regarding the incident need to be directed to your school contacts."

But when we reached out to District Spokeswoman Suzanne Turner, she seemed to pass the question back to police, stating via email:

"I think your inquiry is better directed to the MPWPD. As the report you sent indicated, they are the ones who investigated. My understanding is that it was their decision not to make an arrest."

With that, we reached out to School Board President Elizabeth Baker, who happens to serve as an attorney for a division of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, which represents employees of TEMCO, the custodians' direct employer.

While Baker does not represent the division of SEIU that handles CHS and other South Orange Maplewood School District employees, she has maintained a practice of recusing herself from any discussion or agreements involving the union.

She said via email that that would also preclude her from commenting on this incident: 

As I have explained publicly I am recused from all matters involving Temco. So that you are clear - I am not involved in representing 32BJ represented-Temco employees in SOMSD.  I work in 32BJ's New York City Division but have recused myself to avoid even the appearance of conflict.  

I am adding First VP and FFT Chair Chris Sabin to this thread in light of my recusal. 

Sabin did not respond to our requests for information. Instead, Turner sent the following email today:

The Board asked me to reply. Our understanding is that the 
Maplewood Police Department completed their investigation 
and did not deem this a criminal offense or make an arrest. 

You will have to talk to Maplewood PD for any further details of
their investigation.

UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, we reached out again to Capt. Williams and received the following response that seems to indicate that it was the district's decision to handle the matter internally, which would contradict Turner's claim. 

Williams wrote via email:

Unfortunately, as previously stated, there is not much information I can provide you.  However, I can tell you the following: 

The original staff complaints contained incomplete information.  As a result of an investigation by the Police Department as well as the School, it was determined there was a misunderstanding that occurred and the matter was resolved internally by the School.  

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