Toms River School Board President Says District Will Attempt to Recover Stolen Funds and Move Forward
Toms River–In light of the media circus that has enveloped the Toms River School District over the Michael Ritacco bribery scandal and last week’s sentencing of Ritacco to prison, the district says it wants to move forward and has plans of its own to recoup the losses inflicted by Ritacco.
It seems these days, local newspapers and online blogs are full of Ritacco stories and extremely light on actual news stories about the district itself, its students, teachers or programs.
“It is most unfortunate that our reputation is being damaged by the actions of a few individuals who schemed to defraud our district. Our community takes great pride in our schools, and will continue to take great pride in our schools. What we need to remind ourselves, is that Toms River Regional School District is not an individual, but a large system. The key word is, ‘system.’ What makes our district great is the schools and at that level, we continue to function well,” said School Board President Ed Gearity.
Gearity said that the district is serious about recovering the money stolen by Ritacco and his cohorts. He said the district’s first step came in February of this year when a claim was filed with the school’s insurance provider.
“We put the insurance companies on notice in October 2010, we filed the actual claim in February 2012, and since there is now a guilty plea and sentencing by Judge Pisano, we expect a response from the insurance carrier shortly,” he said.
The district’s statement said that as part of the former Superintendent’s guilty plea, he was required to forfeit $1 million dollars, plus some cash and a vehicle. Judge Pisano provided the Attorney General’s office with a 90-day deadline, to mid-December 2012, to go back and further refine the calculations of the district’s loss and present a full and complete number.
“We filed a victim impact statement with Judge Pisano on August 14, 2012 and petitioned the judge to order restitution from all individuals who took part in perpetrating schemes to divert district dollars, to ensure that the district is made whole and that those dollars are returned. Copies of the victim impact statement are no longer considered confidential and can now be made available to public since the sentencing has concluded,” Gearity said. The district is reviewing their legal options in terms of recovering the amount of dollars currently being held by the district for the former Superintendent.
If all else fails, Gearity said the district could leave more aggressive recovery options on the table, including a civil lawsuit against individuals responsible for the losses.
“This activity was very much concealed from this Board of Education, as well as others. The Board never abdicated their responsibility. Those who have attended the public committee meetings can attest to the fact that the Board asks many
questions and seeks justifications for administrative recommendations. As a highfunctioning Board should operate, by the time we get to the regular action meeting, the issues have been discussed and hashed out through the committee system, leaving the Board to vote on the recommendation,” the board president added. “This is not rubber-stamping, as
recommendations have previously been fully vetted through the Board committee process and through addressing board member questions and concerns.”
“As a board we feel betrayed by the former Superintendent, and the entire community was betrayed by the former Superintendent. What happened here was not a failure of the system, it was a failure of an individual and a violation of the trust imparted to him, both statutorily and in practice, by the very nature of his position,” he added.
Gearity said now is the time thought for the district to move forward and for the community to move forward.