LITTLE EGG HARBOR – The newly hired school district business administrator, Nick Brown, is also a business partner of superintendent Melissa McCooley’s husband, Luke McCooley. Both are part owners of a local business, the Pinelands Brewery, a Little Egg Harbor-based nanobrewery according to material on the company’s website.
On May 15th, 2017 the Little Egg Harbor Board of Education approved Brown’s contract at the salary of $120,000 per year, according to documents provided by the school district. The contract was approved unanimously in a board vote, aside from one abstention by MarthaJune Palan. Palan’s daughter, Katrina is employed by the Little Egg Harbor school district, according to her state ethics disclosure form.
As of press time, Brown remains listed on the website of the Pinelands Brewery as the brewery’s business partner and manager, where McCooley’s husband is also listed as a general manager and partner.
Brown’s contract specified that his term would begin on July 1st, 2017 and the contract expires on June 30th, 2018.
While Mr. Brown’s resume did not list previous work as a school business administrator, it indicated that he held the requisite certificate of eligibility for the position through the New Jersey Department of Education.
It was not clear whether there were any other applicants for the business administrator position. In response to an Open Public Record Act (OPRA) request filed by a reporter, Little Egg Harbor Superintendent Melissa McCooley declined to provide the resumes of the unsuccessful applicants, if any other applicants for the position existed at all, citing an exemption under Executive Order 26 – which allows for the disclosure of the resumes of unsuccessful applicants, but only if they consent – as the basis for the lack of disclosure.
Recent decisions of the township board of education, including the staff cuts, a recently approved contract for McCooley that increased compensation following the lifting of a state cap, along the hiring of Brown were the subject of criticism from some residents who took to social media to voice their concerns, such as on the “Little Egg Complaint Dept” page, where McCooley and BOE President Gina Frasca have been frequent targets:
McCooley herself responded to some of her critics from that page in a subsequent YouTube video: