Inside Ocean County Government

Berkeley, Legal

Ethics Charges Against Central Regional’s Pavone-Wilson Dismissed

The state School Ethics Commission has found no probable cause to support ethics charges filed against Central Regional School Board member Denise Pavone-Wilson by fellow board member Jason Mroczka.

At issue in the ethics complaint was Ms. Pavone-Wilson’s employment as a secretary in the Seaside Heights School District – and whether that employment created a direct conflict of interest – as the Central Regional School District has a shared services agreement with Seaside Heights that sees the two districts share a superintendent, business administrator and special education services.

In his complaint, Mroczka contended that Pavone-Wilson violated N.J.S.A. 18A: 12-24(c) simply by taking the oath of office after being elected in 2015, with Mroczka asserting that Pavone-Wilson’s employment by Seaside Heights constituted a “direct” conflict of interest, and thus, would render Pavone-Wilson ineligible to serve on the school board.

The section of the Act that Mroczka alleged was violated reads in full:

No school official shall act in his official capacity in any matter where he, a member of his immediate family, or a business organization in which he has an interest, has a direct or indirect financial involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment. No school official shall act in his official capacity in any matter where he or a member of his immediate family has a personal involvement that is or creates some benefit to the school official or member of his immediate family;

School Ethics Commission: No Quid-Pro-Quo Relationship

The Commision held that since Pavone-Wilson was employed by the Seaside Heights school district before she took office as a board member, no probable cause exists to credit a violation of the School Ethics Act in this case.

“In this case, because Respondent’s employment preceded her service on the Board, no quid pro quo arrangement could appear to exist,” the Commission ruled in its written decision.

It should be noted that this was a probable cause determination, not a full adjudication of the merits of the case.

According to the decision, “A finding of probable cause is not an adjudication on the merits, but, rather, an initial review whereupon the Commission makes a preliminary determination whether the matter should proceed to an adjudication on the merits, or whether further review is not warranted. ”

The School Ethics Commission is the independent state agency given jurisdiction over ethics complaints filed against school officials under the state School Ethics Act. Previously, we detailed how citizens can file complaints alleging violations of the Act.

The full decision is below:


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