Says Amount in Question Represents ‘Just the Tip of the Iceberg’ in Terms of Elizabeth Board of Education Corruption
TRENTON – State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, today praised a court order issued earlier this week requiring former Elizabeth Board of Education President Rafael Fajardo and schools superintendent Pablo Munoz to pay back more than $60,000 which was used illicitly on personal legal fees, noting that the amount equals “just the tip of the iceberg” regarding corruption at the Elizabeth Board of Education.
“Whether its the abuse in the free school lunch program, shaking down employees for campaign donations, or treating the taxpayers’ funds like their own personal piggy bank, Fajardo and Munoz and their supporters at the Elizabeth Board of Education have acted with impudence with our children’s education and the taxpayers of Elizabeth and the State,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Elizabeth. “It’s time to expose the corruption, fraud and abuse of the taxpayers’ trust to the light of day, and to send corrupt school board members packing. We have to focus on making Elizabeth schools work for the students enrolled there, and not allow the board of education to become a launching pad for political campaigns.”
Senator Lesniak has fought to expose corruption at the Elizabeth Board of Education for years. He said the recent court order to repay $60,000, coupled with new revelations this week about the investigation into corruption in the free school lunch program – current school board president Marie Munn paid back more than $2,500 to reimburse for the cost of her children receiving free school lunches, despite the fact that the family did not qualify for the program – represent only a fraction of the questionable activities which have taken place under the umbrella of the Board of Education.
“What makes these actions even more egregious is that while board members wasted taxpayer dollars on personal legal fees, self-aggrandizing mailers, and free lunch for their family members, the state was pumping more money into its budget” said Senator Lesniak, “I’m glad that we’re now getting to the core of the problem – school board members more interested in looking out for their personal and political interests than they are interested in looking out for the students entrusted to their oversight. I look forward to the results of ongoing criminal probes into the operations at the Elizabeth Board of Education, so we can move beyond this dark chapter in our city’s history and begin to reclaim our schools for the students who deserve a decent education and our homeowners who should be confident their tax dollars are not being used for political or personal gain.”