ROSELLE, NJ — The Bayonne firm of Donohue, Gironda, Doria & Tomkins will conduct an audit of the local school district after the business administrator and his secretary were relieved of their duties, the school board attorney said.
Jason Jones and his secretary, Jade Wilson, were “relieved of their responsibilities” effective Jan. 30, Roselle Superintendent Richard Corbett said in a Feb. 6 email to LocalSource. He did not elaborate as to why.
Jones, who is also a Neptune Board of Education member, was slated to fill the vacant position of school board secretary in Roselle last month, but it was never approved. Jones did not respond to a request for comment and Wilson could not be reached.
“The board can confirm that we have hired an outside auditing firm to conduct a forensic audit and that the forensic audit has already begun,” school board President Patricia Fabrizio said at the start of a Feb. 8 special meeting. “As this matter involves investigation (and) potential matters of personnel, the board, it members and employees cannot discuss the matter any further at this time.”
However, the hiring of the firm was not on the agenda for the Feb. 8 special school board meeting, which was the first fully completed meeting of the year for the struggling board. A vacant seat has yet to be filled, and its eight members have either been split on most measures or have not had a quorum to hold a meeting.
School board attorney Allan Roth, who was not at the meeting, said the firm could be retroactively appointed at the next meeting. It was not immediately clear why Fabrizio — who appeared to be reading from a written statement — declared that the board had hired an outside firm at the start of the meeting before any vote had taken place.
“I don’t know why she said what she said,” Roth said in a Feb. 12 phone call, later confirming that the contract had not been approved at the meeting although the firm was working on an investigation. “There was a plan to get moving on this.”
Roth said the accounting firm was selected because of its experience auditing other school boards.
“They’re looking at every single invoice, and every single resolution, and every single purchase order and then matching it up with the bill list,” he said.
The firm, which did not respond to a request for comment, has worked for the borough government and has audited other school districts. It recently audited the Bayonne School District and initially found a $2 million deficit, until the state discovered the Hudson County school district was actually never in a hole, the Jersey Journal reported in November.
Frederick Tomkins, a partner in the firm, was hired as interim chief financial officer for Roselle in 2009 at a salary of $1, the Star-Ledger reported. At that time, the council reportedly approved to pay his firm a maximum of $40,000 for financial services to the borough.
Former Roselle Mayor Garrett Smith asked the school board during the public comment portion of the meeting if the firm was Donohue, Gironda, Doria & Tomkins, which he called “politically connected”. It seems like this pattern has gone on,” Smith said. “Because it’s interesting that by the time we get to meetings, it seems like employees have already made decisions on what’s going to go on and there’s not things being done in public.”
The board addressed several inquiries from the public after voting, but did not address any questions regarding the firm.
Meanwhile, Fabrizio said those interested in applying for the position of interim business administrator had to apply by Feb. 12. The school board has a budget of about $52 million, records show.
The board also agreed to hold public interviews for applicants interested in the school board’s vacant seat at its next meeting and board members were given resumes to review Feb. 8, too.
At the last scheduled meeting where there was no quorum, the school board was supposed to accept former school board Secretary Dorian Timmons’ resignation and appoint Jones, the district’s business administration, to fill the position.
There was no appointment for a school board secretary on the Feb. 8 agenda. The vacancy for secretary has created a backlog of several open public records requests from the residents, the superintendent said.
While the school board has still not approved an annual meeting schedule, its next meeting was approved for Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at Abraham Clark High School.