With former superintendent Michael Ritacco guilty plea to two charges in a $2 million bribery and corruption case, the reaction from the community, school board, Toms River Regional district and other key players is unfolding.
Here is a collection of their reactions.
U.S. District Attorney Paul Fishman: “Ritacco betrayed the students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers of the Toms River Regional School District by soliciting and receiving more than $1 million in bribes over a long period of time. This conduct strikes at the core of our trust in government and is intolerable, and today’s plea is another affirmative step in federal law enforcement’s efforts to ensure that the local government insurance brokerage business in the state of New Jersey is conducted free from corruption and fraud."
Toms River Regional Superintendent Frank Roselli: “We are hopeful that while we are aggressively pursuing all avenues of recovery and restitution for any misappropriated public funds, that we can now also move forward as a community with a renewed focus on the betterment of the district, both operationally and educationally.”
Toms River Regional Board Member Gus Kakavas: "I will continue to do what I have done for almost three years as a Toms River Board of Education member — strongly support what we do right and vigorously address what needs to be fixed. I am looking forward to putting this chapter of Toms River history behind us."
Toms River Regional Board Member Ben Giovine: "I think when I first read the news, my first thought was that this certainly gives the district some closure. It's time for the board to move on and move forward, to increase transparency of the board...Hopefully as a result, we'll see how those who oversee the budgets, oversee different policies make sure they've provided enough sunlight into the process ... You have to blame those who plead guilty. Mike (Ritacco) and Gartland were doing the wrong things. The healing process will be to make sure we increase the transparency."
Toms River Regional Board Member Alex Pavliv: "I think there is much work to be done. The poisonous spider known as Ritacco may now be squashed; the web of intrigue and corruption which he wove will take a great effort to clean out. We have only scratched the surface. I am sorry that he plead to only two counts as his action deprived the children of educational funds while he and his cronies got fat eating the innocent fly known as the Toms River taxpayer. To quote former mayor Ed Koch, 'I seldom forgive and never forget.' I hope the judge throws the book at him for violating the public trust and making a mockery of the Toms River Board of Ed and our school system."
Toms River Regional Board Member Loreen Torrone: "It's a sad and embarrassing day for Toms River Regional Schools and the community in general. This verifies a greater need for transparency by the board of ed. for all areas of the district’s operation. The community has been calling for greater transparency all along, and since Ritacco left the reasons it's needed are on display. Every effort tshould be made to reocever the money’s stolen, and the board of ed. and the board attorney should be working toward that end. Certainly we need to move forward, we need to put this behind us, but we have to learn from it."
Toms River Regional School Board Attorney Thomas Monahan declined to comment, directing queries to Superintendent Frank Roselli, who was scheduled to make a statement at 2 p.m.: "Mr. Roselli is making the statement," Monahan said. "I'm not making any other statement. Mr. Roselli is making a statement on behalf of the district."
Berkeley Patch Editor Patricia A. Miller contributed to this article.