Lesniak, Cryan, Quijano Request Investigation Into Elizabeth School District School Lunch Program

In Letter to Federal and State Officials, Legislators Ask for Swift and Thorough Examination of Alleged Fraud

TRENTON � In a letter to federal and state officials, State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, all D-Union, today requested an investigation into the alleged abuses of the national school lunch program operating within the Elizabeth School District.

�We fully support the school lunch program for children from low income families. To restore confidence in its integrity, we ask for a swift and thorough investigation of its implementation by the Elizabeth School District and that legal action be taken against the President of the Board of Education and the principal and teacher cited in the article should the facts prove they fraudulently abused the program,� the legislators wrote. �Also, we ask that the district administration be investigated for complicity in the fraud and abuse.�

The Star-Ledger reported Sunday that the children of several high-level officials within the Elizabeth School District are recorded as eligible to receive free or reduced lunch under the National School Lunch Program, even though their salaries appear to exceed income eligibility limits imposed by the federal government. District officials refused to directly address the alleged abuses uncovered by the newspaper, according to the report. Instead, the district notified parents that �illegal hackers� had obtained confidential computer information on the program.

The legislators said the response by the district indicates a failure to recognize the severity of abuse of a program for children from low income families, as well as a lack of concern for the taxpayers of New Jersey and of the United States.

The legislators� letter is below:

August 22, 2011

Dear Attorney General Holder, Inspector General Schnedar , Secretary Vilsack,

General Dow and Prosecutor Romankow:

The enclosed article and reader�s comments from the Star Ledger, August 21, 2011, regarding alleged abuse of the school lunch program for children from low income families gives us great concern. As you will see from the comments, the allegations raise questions beyond the individual abuses referenced. They question the value of the entire program operation within the district, as well as the integrity of the school district administration.

We fully support the school lunch program for children from low income families. To restore confidence in its integrity, we ask for a swift and thorough investigation of its implementation by the Elizabeth School District and that legal action be taken against the President of the Board of Education and the principal and teacher cited in the article should the facts prove they fraudulently abused the program.

Also, we ask that the district administration be investigated for complicity in the fraud and abuse. Its action to cover up any fraud and abuse by obstructing access to information from the public by securing any data on the program, and its implied hacker allegation against The Star-Ledger which brought the abuse to public scrutiny, demonstrates its failure to recognize the severity of abuse of a program for children from low income families. It furthermore demonstrates its lack of concern for the taxpayers of New Jersey and of the United States.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent request.

Sincerely,

Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan, D-Union

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union