Second Forensic Audit Reports More Spending Abnormalities at Board of Education

CPA Dieter Lerch addressed the full board on March 21.,  Credits: Fran Sullivan

ELIZABETH, NJ – The second installment of the forensic auditing report ordered by the Board of Education revealed more improprieties, according to CPA Dieter Lerch who presented the findings.

Lerch addressed five board members at the April 21 meeting, President Charlene Bathelus, Vice President Maria Carvalho, Stephanie Goncalves, Stanley Neron, Daniel Nina, and JoseRodriguez were in attendance. Ana Marie Amin, Paul Perreira, and Carlos Trujillo were absent.

One of the vendors Lerch highlighted was Bayway Lumber. The company entered into a contract with the Board for locks and hardware with a bid threshold of $26,000 on December 13, 2012, and a file was created January 13, 2013, but on February 16, 2016, that file was modified, according to Lerch who illustrated the change on the large screens on either side of School 12 auditorium.  

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On July 31, 2014, Bayway Lumber’s contract as a state vendor expired, meaning that the Board was no longer authorized to do business with them, said Lerch. On January 14, 2015, Bayway Lumber was back on the Board’s books, erroneously listed as a state contractor and an additional 230,000 was charged, making it a total of $528,000. Although the contract was limited to locks and hardware, miscellaneous items were also charged, of which 99 percent was not for the items contracted.

When asked the names of the Board employees who changed the record, attorney Lester Taylor, a partner in the firm Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, declined saying it was inappropriate because the employees were not yet informed.

Lerch also pointed out 25 emergency purchases to Central Jersey Roofing that did not comply with the local public contractor law. The purchases totaled $75,000 with an addition $20,000 outstanding. Later in the meeting, Board commissioner Dan Nina proposed a resolution to shelf further payments to Bayway Lumber, Central Jersey Roofing, and Royal Printing pending further investigation. The resolution passed.

“This represents multiple millions of dollars that had an impact on educational programs,” said board commissioner Jose Rodriquez, who proposed putting spending caps on future purchases.“It would be a kind of speed bump and would provide an opportunity to ask why.”

On the plus side, 31 former employees, previously reported as ineligible for medical insurance, were removed, saving taxpayers $200,000, Lerch reported.

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