TOMS RIVER-A report in the Asbury Park Press this morning reveals the Toms River School Board had met in private to approve the hiring of a private investigator and the district is refusing to provide any information to the newspaper regarding that investigation.
The Press article also suggests the board may have violated New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act by taking the action behind closed doors. The district has refused to release bills associated with the investigation.
At this time, it is unclear who the target of the investigation is, but the board’s aim is to find out who leaked sensitive and confidential employee records to the Asbury Park Press earlier this year.
The Asbury Park Press has stated it will continue to refuse to cooperate with the district’s private investigator to assist in resolving the matter. The newspaper previously invoked their right to keep the source of the leak confidential under New Jersey’s shield law, which protects newspapers from being forced to reveal sources to any government agency.
Sources within the district suggest the leak of a sexual harassment claim against School District Superintendent David Healy was a politically motivated attack by school board Republicans to publicly discredit and shame both school board Democrats and Healy himself.
Healy was hired in the wake of the Ritacco scandal to right the ship in the Toms River School district as a replacement for interim superintendent Thomas Gialanella.
He was appointed by the Clean Slate Team, the predominantly Democrat team that currently controls the 5-4 majority on the school board. Healy is currently being considered for a contract extension on his 5-year contract that expires in 2019.
Democrats are currently trying to extend Healy’s contract ahead of this year’s general election where they face the prospect of losing their board majority to Republicans. In that scenario, board Republicans are expected to let the superintendent’s contract expire after his term and replace him with their own choice, allowing them greater control of the district’s finances and decisionmaking power.
The latest news is the most current revelation in a long line of scandals that have already plagued board Republicans since January. Earlier this year the Republican minority attempted to hire a politically connected accounting firm who submitted a low bid proposal for an auditing contract. After it became known that the firm donated $1,000 to the campaign of Republican Daniel Leonard, the board was forced to spend an additional $20,000 and hire a firm that did not donate money to any political campaigns in the district.
In the wake of that decision, Leonard lashed out at fellow board member Robert Onofrietti for not towing the party line, at one point calling Onofrietti, “a little bitch” at an open public meeting of the board.
Leonard also admitted to staking out the home of Onofrietti in July, which eventually led to criminal charges being filed against Leonard. Those charges were subsequently dropped after Leonard and Onofrietti agreed to make amends with each other.
The district did not disclose when the investigation into the sensitive information leaks would be completed.
Copyright 2017 Shore News Network