School board president faces an ethics complaint

ELIZABETH — It appears school board President Tony Monteiro has a lot of explaining to do about why he did not disclose certain interests and income to the state, as required by law.

Armed with dates, times, places and the paperwork to back up those claims, four residents recently filed ethics complaints against Monteiro with the New Jersey School Ethics Commission.

The charges alleged the school board president, appointed once again in September 2012 to fill an unexpired term, engaged in unethical behavior and failed to report his involvement or income derived from property he had an interest in, among other things.

The complaint, filed by city residents Sammie Muhammad, Jineen Holmes, Amanda Leon and Brunilda Cruz, maintained Monteiro, who previously served as a 5th ward councilman from 1995 to 2002 and on the Board of Education from 2007 to late 2008, stated that Monteiro never filed an annual disclosure statement with the New Jersey School Ethics Commission or New Jersey Department of Education for 2008, 2012 and 2013.

The disclosure statement is required of any school official, elected or otherwise, regardless of whether or not they have a job with a district or a relative who is a party to a contract with the school. In the annual statement, officials must reveal whether they or a relative receive compensation from any business having a contract with the school district and the nature of that contract. They also must disclose the name of the business or businesses they have a vested interest in, as required by law.

New Jersey State law is very strict about filing these disclosure statements, indicating that anyone failing to file a statement or filing one with false information “is subject to reprimand, censure, suspension or removal.”

According to the complaint, Monteiro failed to file a disclosure statement with the school ethics commission for the years 2008, 2012 and 2013, notifying that he has an interest in two businesses and was engaged in activity directly conflicting with the proper discharge of his duties.
The complaint said Monteiro did file a disclosure statement in 2007, listing the businesses he owned or had an interest in, but failed to include Solar Do Minho, a Portuguese Steakhouse and bar at 147 Westfield Ave. in Roselle Park.

This business was formed in April 2005 and, according to supporting documents, Monteiro was or is one of the partners that applied for and received a $5 million mortgage on the property. However, the list the school board members supplied to the state in 2007 never named this property as one of his vested interests. The auditing firm that is involved in Solar Do Minho that Monteiro is a part owner of also has contracts with the Elizabeth School District.

Monteiro allegedly failed to list his interests with Mendonca & Suarez, an auditing firm awarded a contract for professional services involving accounting and auditing for the Elizabeth School District. The firm previously changed the name of their firm to Mendonca & Partners and was again awarded a contract not to exceed $127,500 this year. Supporting documents included minutes of the meeting attesting that Monteiro voted to approve this move, even though he had a direct conflict.

According to the complaint, Monteiro has a vested interest with this firm because the accounting firm is the same entity listed at the business address on the tax records for the Roselle Park Restaurant, Solar Do Minho Steakhouse and Bar.

“Helder Mendonca is a principal in Mendonca & Partners,” the complaint said, “the same entity that was awarded a contract to perform auditing services for the Elizabeth School District.”

The complaint further maintained “there is no doubt” Monteiro either was or is a member of the Roselle Park limited liability company with Mendonca. They substantiated this by showing documents for the $5 million mortgage secured and recorded by the Union County Clerk’s office. Also offered as evidence was the document Monteiro and Mendonca signed, along with Belarmino Suarez.

Efforts to reach Monteiro for comment were unsuccessful, despite repeated attempts.