Catala should resign from New London school board, end candidacy

For his own good and the good of the school system and the children it serves, Jason Catala should resign his position on the New London Board of Education and end his candidacy.

This past weekend the public learned that Waterford police had arrested Catala, 45, for second-degree identity theft, a felony, and illegal use of a credit card, a misdemeanor. The circumstances surrounding the arrest, detailed in the arrest warrant application released after Catala’s arraignment Monday, are troubling.

He stands accused of opening 16 credit card accounts using a niece’s name and without her knowledge, accruing $8,000 in debt. According to police, Catala admitted going online and applying for the credit cards using the victim’s financial information, which he obtained by doing her taxes since she was in high school. In other words, he took advantage of her.

In this country, all arrested are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But that does not mean we must turn a blind eye to the facts, and they are damning. After initially contending he had permission to open the credit cards, and trying to rationalize his actions because he had helped his niece in other ways, Catala, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, conceded the wrongfulness of his actions and admitted to “a problem with credit and using credit cards.”

The last thing the New London school system needs is having someone in place on the board who is facing serious criminal charges and evidence of ethical misconduct. It would further undermine confidence in New London’s public schools. The city’s schools are still dealing with the fallout from last school year’s scandal, which led to the arrest of two staff members for allegedly sexually assaulting students and a third for failing to report knowledge of such behavior, as required by law.

Catala needs to turn his attention to his own personal problems, to his family, and to the potential impact of the arrest on his job. He is a magnet school coach and educator for New Haven Public Schools.

Citing the advice of his attorney — fellow Democrat and former mayor Daryl Justin Finizio — Catala is not commenting on the arrest. This is the same man who has demanded transparency from other school officials. Catala is apparently selective about when transparency by public officials is in order.

Do the right thing, Mr. Catala, and step aside.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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