- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 10, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The head of a state agency overseeing school construction projects said Wednesday she can’t answer questions about reports she hired unqualified people, including relatives, because it’s “under review.”

Schools Development Authority CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco appeared before the Assembly Budget Committee Wednesday and defended her tenure, which started early last year when Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was sworn in.

She said the agency, which oversees construction projects in 31 of the state’s poorest school districts, has 43 projects underway and that she had inherited an agency that was understaffed.

But the agency has been at the center of reporting by The Record newspaper, which said that she hired family members, including a second cousin and the mother of her grandchild.

Republican Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz asked Delgado-Polanco to explain reports that the agency hired family members and former colleagues who lacked the listed job qualifications.

Delgado-Polanco declined to answer, saying the issue was under review by counsel.

The authority has said the new employees were hired because they had the necessary skills.

But the Record reported that at least 10 hires lacked qualifications, including one who was hired for $105,000 to be the deputy director of Small, Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise despite lacking a required degree and working earlier in a car dealership.

The newspaper also reported, for example, that another person, who is the daughter-in-law of another official at the authority, was hired to be a “human resources specialist-benefits.”

The post required a bachelor’s degree, three to five years in HR and professional certifications. But the person hired didn’t have a degree or certifications, and her previous job was in retail, according to her resume.

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