Powerful NJ Union Operative Resigns Posts Over Political Patronage Scandal

Lizette Delgado-Polonco. Image credit: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe.

From rags to corrupt riches, the reign of a New Jersey power broker and union operative has come to an end—for now.

Former UNITE-HERE business agent and SEIU Executive Director Lizette Delgado-Polanco resigned as the CEO of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority earlier this week.

“Delgado-Polanco has been under fire for making nepotistic hires since assuming the post last summer, and for hiring a number of political allies at the authority,” reports the New Jersey Globe.

Delgado-Polonco—the child of Dominican immigrants who worked in the blueberry fields of South Jersey as a child—climbed her way up to the height of union and political power in New Jersey.

In 1996, she become a union business agent for Atlantic City’s Local 54 of UNITE-HERE before leaving in 2001 to become director of special projects for then-U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine before joining the gubernatorial campaign of Jim McGreevey as the Latino base voter program director.

After McGreevey won, Delgado-Polanco became the first Hispanic assistant secretary of state, a position in which she managed a $41 million budget and directed day-to-day operations of 11 divisions, according to NorthJersey.com.

In 2008, she returned to unions as executive director of the New Jersey division of Service Employees International Union coordinating its legislative and political agenda, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

In 2017, Delgado-Polanco became the political director of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, overseeing the political staff in five states.

As a supporter of now-Governor Phil Murphy’s campaign, Murphy put Delgado-Polonco in charge of the Schools Development Authority after he won.

The SDA is responsible for nearly $11 billion in school building projects in the state’s poorest areas, an agency that was created after a different mismanagement scandal.

In February, NorthJersey.com reported that, since August the SDA had hired 38 people whose salaries totaled $3.3 million under Delgado-Polonco’s “restructuring” of the SDA, and that “many appear to have personal connections to Delgado-Polanco or her family.”

“In all, 26 of the authority’s employees, many of whom worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations, were “terminated” in the restructuring and replaced with some of Delgado-Polanco’s allies and associates — including a second cousin who had been accused in a previous public job of sexual harassment,” the paper reported.

“Besides the cousin accused of sexual harassment, the new hires included the mother of Delgado-Polanco’s grandchild, 10 former employees who either worked for or were represented by the unions Delgado-Polanco previously worked for, and at least one friend of her daughter’s…”

“It is so obvious what went on there. It is so obvious that what she did, how she did it, and then to actually think she’s going to come to the Legislature and we’re going to refinance that program with the way that she’s handled it?” New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney–himself a union agent–said before Delgado-Polonco’s resignation. “I’m shocked she’s still there.”

Following her resignation at the SDA, Delgado-Polonco also stepped down as vice chairwoman of the Democratic State Committee on .

Although it has not been reported which union will hire Delgado-Polonco now, it is likely that she will not be disappearing from New Jersey union-dominated politics anytime soon.

A Listing of Jobs Given To Delgado-Polonco Cronies


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