Even as Gov. Phil Murphy hints he may lift the school mask mandate, tensions over the masking issue are boiling over in Lacey.

Board of Education President Frank Palino has filed criminal charges against some parents and fellow board member Salvatore Armato for refusing to mask up at the district's Jan. 6 board meeting.

Palino claimed in Municipal Court documents that Armato and others who refused to use a mask endangered his life and caused the board meeting to be canceled.

In response, the group Lacey Citizens for Responsible Government has started an online petition to out Palino from the school board.

The change.org petition alleges "Palino is using his position to abuse his power politically and not listen to the voices of concerned parents and children of Lacey Township."

Lacey BOE President, Frank Palino, is using his position to abuse his power politically and not listen to the voices of concerned parents and children of Lacey Township. We also feel “unsafe” attending these BOE meetings due to him threatening parents legally who attend “maskless” to voice questions and concerns regarding the safety of their children. - change.org petition

As of Friday morning, the petition had over 380 signatures.

YouTube screengrab/change.org
YouTube screengrab/change.org

Armato was elected largely with support from the citizens' group. Their Facebook page is filled with anti-mask and anti-vaccination posts as well as harsh criticism of Gov. Murphy and other Democrats.

Palino has been unapologetic for filing charges against Armato and members of the public.

During last week's reorganization meeting of the school board, Palino scolded Armato and his supporters. "I am done with the antics in the meetings," Palino said. "We have to conduct business."

He then pressed Armato to "do the right thing" and "stop wasting our time."

Palino then doubled down on charging those who refuse to mask up, and vowed, " If someone comes in and refuses to put their mask on, I promise you, if I identify you, I will charge you."


Three parents are facing misdemeanor charges in municipal court. If found guilty, they could face six months in jail.

However, the Asbury Park Press reports Armato could face more serious charges due to his role as an elected school board member. The matter is under review by the Ocean County Prosecutor.

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