Inside Ocean County Government

Stafford, The Gravy Train

Stafford Hires Board Member’s Sister as School Board Attorney

STAFFORD – Since 2015 Laura Benson, the sister of Stafford BOE member Michael Benson, and a partner in county lawyer Jack Sahradnik’s law firm has served as the school board’s attorney.

After a reader submitted a news tip on the matter, OCP confirmed the familial relationship between the two with a review of Mr. Benson’s current school ethics disclosures, filed with the state Department of Education. There, Mr. Benson disclosed that Mrs. Benson is his sister and served as board attorney on ethics forms going back to 2015. On that same form, he indicated that both him and his wife are employed by the Southern Regional School District.

According to a copy of the latest pay-to-play disclosure report filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission by Benson’s law firm, Berry, Sahradnik, Kotzas & Benson, the firm’s contract with the board of education began in 2015. A box was checked indicating that the contract was awarded through a “fair and open” process.

ALL IN THE FAMILY? Stafford isn’t the only Ocean County school district that may be confronting unique conflicts of interest due to familial relationships between school officials, contracted professionals and employees. In nearby Lacey, that township’s school board attorney has a wife working in the same school district whose board of education is represented by his law firm.

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