Contact: Kelly Vence


Public Information Office



ELIZABETH, NJ June 19, 2013- Mayor J. Christian Bollwage called on Education Commissioner Chris Cerf to protect taxpayers from continued mismanagement of funds, restore honesty and safeguard the academic process for the thousands of young people attending the City’s Public Schools.  The Mayor urged the Commissioner to do this by taking over the search for a new Superintendent of Schools and disallowing the Elizabeth Board of Education the ability to impose a 7.5% tax levy increase.

From investigations and arrests to an indictment that resulted in resignation, scandals have plagued the Elizabeth Board of Education (EBOE). Former Board President Marie Munn falsely reported household income in order to qualify her children for free lunch. Also arrested for similar actions were Angela Lucio, who is the ex-wife of Elizabeth School District Principal Carlos Lucio; and Peter Abitanto, who is the husband of Facilities Supervisor, Marlene Abitanto.

Board member John Donoso’s wife was the next EBOE connection to allegedly misrepresent financial information on school lunch applications so her children could fraudulently receive services that are intended for those in need. In light of Ms. Munn’s indictment for her actions, an alleged attempt to cover up the applications submitted by Mr. Donoso’s wife was undertaken by Mr. Donoso, Board Attorney Kirk Nelson and outside counsel Frank Capece. Charges, including tampering with public records, were brought against Mr. Donoso, his wife Olga Oviedo-Arevalo, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Capece for their roles. For several of the employees, the consequences for allegedly defrauding the system and shamefully deceiving the public were to be placed on leave with pay.

Unfortunately this complete disregard for the law, as well as for residents, who elected the Board of Education members, does not stop there. Just yesterday, it was reported that $3,500.00 was stolen from the Principal’s Office at Nicholas Murray Butler School #23 by the Head Custodian, who was ultimately arrested. It appears that the money was raised from a book fair in early May. The EBOE is the deciding authority on hires and promotions within the Elizabeth Public School System.

“It is disturbing that the theft occurred; however the real question is why was $3,500 being stored weeks later in the Principal’s Office?” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “This is just one more example of what can occur when the EBOE administration does not lead by example or enforce rules and procedures throughout their organization.”

In 2011, former Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein was retained by the Elizabeth Board of Education to serve as Special Counsel and conduct an internal review of the organization. Although represented as an independent analysis, approximately $1 million was charged to Elizabeth taxpayers for services provided by Justice Stein for a report, which was proven false. In addition to the exorbitant cost spent for this partial assessment, Justice Stein’s son was employed by the Board at the time.

Just as the Stein Report mocked the integrity of New Jersey’s educational system and insulted the intelligence of taxpayers, two complaints filed against Board of Education President A. Tony Monteiro allege more of the same.  Unethical behavior, non-compliance of reporting requirements as well as non-disclosure of interests or income derived from affiliated entities are outlined within the complaints. Years later this is another case of the EBOE, along with their supporters and employees, promoting personal agendas in lieu of duty and responsibility.

With the recent announcement that School Superintendent Pablo Muñoz will leave Elizabeth for Passaic, there is an opportunity to infuse positive change into the Elizabeth Board of Education.

“The individual who fills this vacancy will have a tremendous impact on the future of Elizabeth’s children,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “In order to ensure that the environment created by leadership moving forward is one that demands nothing short of excellence, it is imperative that the replacement of Mr. Muñoz is not chosen by the Elizabeth Board of Education.”