Hatikvah Property Owners Sue Township Council
The Eisenreich Family Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the township council.
The landowner for the new location of Hatikvah International Academy Charter School has filed a lawsuit against the East Brunswick Township Council.
The Eisenreich Family Foundation owns property at 7 Lexington Ave., the intended spot for Hatikvah to open a new, expanded location in September.
The school hit a road block last month when the council overturned a variance granted by the zoning board last July that would permit the school to renovate a warehouse into a space for the school.
"The Eisenreich Family Foundation...has filed suit against the East Brunswick Township Council for violating its due process and tainting the application process through illegal coordination and illicit conflicts of interest," according to a press release issued Tuesday by Hatikvah.
Hatikvah has already announced its intent to sue the council for the decision.
Township council president James Wendell previously said that the variance was overturned because of a "land-use issue" in that the industrial zone in which 7 Lexington Ave. is located is not suitable to be used for a school.
Wendell did not return an email request for comment.
In the release, Hatikvah called out East Brunswick residents Deborah Cornavaca and Christine Rampolla, claiming that the two women who appealed the zoning board decision sent emails to township council members that showed "illegal coordination between members of the council and the appellants on the issue of charter schools in general and Hatikvah in particular."
The school claims that emails sent from the two women to councilwoman Nancy Pinkin and councilman Michael Hughes violate the council's "responsibility to act as an impartial judge and jury" regarding the appeal.
"Despite their responsibility to act impartially in this matter, the record clearly shows that members of the council illegally coordinated and colluded with opponents of the Hatikvah Charter School to overturn a unanimous ruling by their own appointed zoning board,” said Danna Nezaria, President of the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School Board of Trustees, in a prepared statement.
On Sept. 26, Rampolla sent Pinkin an email containing links to stories published on Patch and elsewhere detailing a variance denial for the Princeton International Academy Charter School in South Brunswick. She also sent links to stories about the A.C. Redshaw School in nearby New Brunswick, a grade school that is currently housed in a warehouse while the school district waits for a new school building to be constructed to house those students.
"I pointed to our neighboring town of New Brunswick where parents have been fighting tooth and nail to get their children out of a warehouse school. Keep in mind that the New Brunswick warehouse school was a brand new, never-been-used-before warehouse in New Brunswick so it doesn't even carry some of the safety concerns we have about this warehouse here in East Brunswick," Rampolla said, in the email. "Why would we allow here in East Brunswick a situation that our neighbors in New Brunswick have been fighting to get out of for seven years?"
Hatikvah also claims that a January 2012 email to Hughes from Cornavaca requesting a meeting in which Hughes reportedly responded with potential dates is also in violation of the expectation for the council to act independently.
Hatikvah described the two women as having an "anti-charter agenda," accusations that Cornavaca said were baseless.
"This press statement is making accusations without any supporting evidence of either their claims as to our position on charters or any influence that we had on the council's decision," Cornavaca said, when reached for comment. "The claims in this press release of anti-charter communications are false and demonstrate the desperation on the part of the school to make an appeal to the courts."