Inside Ocean County Government

Pay-to-play, Toms River

Connected Lawyers Prepare to Carve Up Toms River School Board

Toms River Schools (OCP File Photo)

Like vultures sniffing fresh roadkill, 17 law firms with ties to both Democrat and Republican insiders are trying to pounce on a new legal services contract with the Toms River school board.


It’s all “for the kids.” The TR BOE’s Washington Street offices are seen here.(Photo by Gavin Rozzi)

The Toms River school board is currently shopping around for yet another lawyer, with the board having issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) and having gotten responses from some of Ocean County’s most entrenched law firms from both sides of the aisle.

School board members are often heard reminding themselves that they do what they do “for the children,” but for some connected insiders it’s all about the profitable public contracts, along with the campaign contributions that come along with them.

According to data obtained by an Open Public Records Act request, the following law firms responded to the Toms River school board’s request for qualifications:

  1. Capehart & Sctachard
  2. Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle & Sacks (Current Toms River BOE attorneys, installed after Clean Slate ousted Gilmore)
  3. Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri & Jacobs (TR BOE labor counsel)
  4. Comegno Law Group (Also represents Central Regional school board, see Mark Toscano’s confrontation with union boss)
  5. Corrigan Law Firm
  6. Dasti, Murphy, McGuckin, Ulaky, Koutsouris & Connors (Ocean County GOP Finance Chair Jerry Dasti, GOP assemblyman McGuckin & Senator Chris Connors)
  7. Freeman, Huber, Sacks, Brennan & Fingerman
  8. Gilmore & Monahan (Tax delinquent Ocean County Republican chair’s firm)
  9. Gluck Walrath (Gets a lot of bond counsel contracts in OC towns)
  10. Kenney, Gross, Kovats & Parton
  11. Leitner, Tort, DeFazio, Leitner & Brause (Law firm of perennial Democrat candidate Chris Leitner, specializes in workman’s comp)
  12. McManimon, Scotland & Baumann
  13. Montenegro, Thompson, Montenegro & Genz (Got contracts at the Brick MUA when the Ducey Democrats took over)
  14. Parker McCay
  15. Schwartz Simon Edelstein & Celso
  16. R.C. Shea & Associates (Employer of Freeholder Joe Vicari’s daughter Dina, gets contracts in GOP towns)
  17. Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer – SUBMISSION WITHDRAWN

According to the minutes of the April 13th meeting of the board’s finance & budget committee “These professional service submissions will be discussed further with the Board prior to reappointments being proposed for 2016-17.” The committee is currently chaired by Russell Corby, a former Democrat mayor of Pine Beach and one-time candidate for state senate.

This past Tuesday, the board met in executive session to “interview professionals,” presumably at least some of those listed above, but the notice posted on their website did not specify just who they spoke with behind closed doors.

As it has been exhaustively documented in towns like Berkeley, Lacey and most recently Jackson, the direction of political winds are often the sole factor that determine which firms get what contracts, so whatever comes of this RFP in Toms River will likely be consistent with this longstanding rule. Officially, state school ethics laws dictate that boards of education are supposed to be “nonpartisan,” but most of them are anything but.

Mike Ritacco

Mike Ritacco

Tom Monahan

Tom Monahan

“Clean Slate” Showed Tom Monahan The Door After Ritacco Scandal

While there are certainly some of the “usual suspects” on the list of potential law firms, the most notable is Ocean County GOP boss George Gilmore, whose law firm previously represented the Toms River school board for years before the Ritacco shakeup.

After Toms River was shocked with the revelation of a criminal insurance kickback scheme concocted by former superintendent (and member of Governor Chris Christie’s education transition team) Michael Ritacco, voters were left with a sour taste in their mouths from the GOP-backed board of education, so the “Clean Slate” team was eventually able to secure a safe majority on the board, running under the moniker of “End the Ritacco era.”

Stephen Leone, of the Democrat-aligned Carluccio Leone, Dimon, Doyle & Sacks was installed as the school board’s attorney in 2013, uprooting Gilmore partner Tom Monahan in a contentious meeting, with two board members voting against the appointment of the Democratic party fundraiser.

Will Ben Giovine’s “Clean Slate” team be able to put the brakes on another Gilmore contract as they did in the past? With the November 2015 school board election seeing the ouster of two Clean Slate members – Joseph Torrone & Ginny Rhine – their majority on the board has been diminished, potentially opening the door to a shakeup.


Liked it? Take a second to support Ocean County Politics on Patreon!