Questions About Michael Ritacco Still Linger
Michael Ritacco might be sitting in a prison cell at this very moment, but the wounds caused by corruption scandal by the former Toms River superintendent are still raw for many residents at the township Board of Education meeting.
The first meeting since Ritacco's sentencing was held on Tuesday at Toms River High School North with the Board issuing a statement in reaction to the former superintendent's eleven year jail sentence. Board President Ed Gearity told the audience of several dozen the most important thing is to move on and rectify the mistakes that were made under the Ritacco administration.
With Michael Ritacco's case finally settled, he notes now they will try to recoup the Board of Ed has been fighting over with insurance companies.
"Now that the guilty plea has been registered with the courts, our attorney's will be working closely with the insurance companies. The judge has given the US Attorney 90 days to have a meeting as far as compensation is concerned with all the defendants."
Gearity says the district has taken safeguards since Ritacco's arrest to make sure the oversights that happened before don't happen again. Those include new insurance brokers who go out to bid on contracts every three years, preventing automatic continuity.
"They'll have to compete with other brokers each of the three years," said Gearity.
BGIA is handling medical insurance for the district and AG Gallagher handles property and casualty insurance.
Gearity and other board members reiterated their disgust by Ritacco's fraud and corruption, however they contend the former superintendents illegal actions were all done behind closed doors and they weren't made aware of it. Gearity noted that it took the "FBI thousands of dollars and man hours to figure out what Mike Ritacco did", implying there was no way they were privy to it.
However some residents at the meeting did not get behind that reasoning.
One speaker said, "Mr. Ritacco swindled two million dollars from the tax payers of New Jersey and the superintendent, the School Board, and the attorneys were unaware it was going on. This is hard for me to believe. "
Critics said Ritacco's attitude and actions demonstrated someone without any respect for the laws.
"I think what happened here is that Ritacco acted like god, nobody would questions him, and if you did question him you better watch out," said Toms River resident Carol Benson.
Gearity says he understands that animosity will be directed towards the board.
"I don't blame people for being upset, I mean it's money that's being taken out of my pocket and the only thing that we can do is understand that they are angry, but we would like to have them realize that considerable changes have been made."
Noting that current Business Manager William Doering "knows exactly what needs to be done with contracts and follows them through to the letter of the law."
Those who spoke were far less forgiving of the Board of Ed for their role throughout the entire process. Several people called for the resignation of anyone on the Board of Education during Ritacco's time. Currently six members, including board presidents Ed Gearity, were on the Board during Ritacco's term.
"You as board members have let every one of us down. And then you sit up here and want us to vote for you again," chastised Toms River resident Cathy Lozaro.
Gearity says that while they are confident that everything is being properly handled, however he acknowledges Ritacco will remain a sore point for the Board of Ed for a long time.
"Our critics I don't think will probably allow us to forget it forever; unfortunately it becomes a political thing. As far as the rest of us, we are aware of it and we will not forget it, but we must continue to move on."