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Camden, NJ Charter School Founder Accused of Retaliating Against Employee

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(LEAP Academy founder Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, second from left, takes part in a ribbon-cutting event in Camden in 2012.  File photo from LEAP Academy.)

(LEAP Academy founder Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, second from left, takes part in a ribbon-cutting event in Camden in 2012. File photo from LEAP Academy.)

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By Pat Loeb

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — The founder of Camden’s LEAP Academy charter schools is now the subject of a whistleblower lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court.

A school employee alleges that LEAP founder Gloria Bonilla-Santiago used him to do repairs on her home, on the taxpayers’ dime.

The plaintiff, Mark Paoli, was facilities manager at LEAP for 12 years. His attorney, Allan Richardson, says that  almost from the beginning, Bonilla-Santiago treated Paoli like her personal handyman.

“She was asking him to do general maintenance work around her house, some of which was quite extensive, on LEAP Academy time, using LEAP Academy equipment and tools,” Richardson tells KYW Newsradio.

The lawsuit lists 17 specific chores — from changing a light bulb to repairing her air conditioning — and claims that when Paoli finally refused her and complained, he was demoted and his pay was cut.

Bonilla-Santiago, a distinguished service professor and director of the Center for Strategic Urban Community Leadership at Rutgers University, denies all the charges in a statement.

A formal response to the suit is due February 13th.

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