The Toms River Regional Schools board voted Thomas Monahan to another year of service as the board attorney, a measure that passed 5-4.
Monahan, who has served as board attorney for more than 20 years, is of the firm Gilmour and Monahan. His and other professional contracts were up for vote last night, though three members of the board said the voting process was disappointing on several levels.
At its , the board voted to retain many of the same professionals used in previous years. Three board members voted almost across the board against the returning professional contracts, and decried the executive sesssion discussion and late-night vote without agenda notice as one lacking transparency for the public.
Ben Giovine, Loreen Torrone and Alex Pavliv, newly sworn board members, voted against the retainment of the professionals at the Toms River Board of Education public meeting Tuesday evening.
The board met in public session at 7:30 p.m. after an executive meeting, and returned at 11:15 p.m. after their second executive session of the night to vote on contracts of board appointed professionals, among other policies.
Approval of the award of professional service contracts over $17,500 for public appointment was presented, the first being attorneys Gilmore and Monahan at $165 per hour. Giovine, Pavliv, and Torrone voted against Monahan's contract. Vice President John Reuther voted against the approval as well, saying it was a tough decision to make.
"Being on the board for two years, I think, without a doubt, this is the most difficult vote [I've made] thus far," Reuther said. "In these past two years, Mr. Monahan has always been very cordial to me and very respectful anytime I have any questions and I have no reason to believe during the two years that I've known [Mr. Monahan] that he has ever done anything other than what was in the best interest of the Toms RIver regional schools. That being said, at this time, it would be appropriate to go in a different direction for board attorney. So my vote is no."
Pavliv, Giovine and Torrone campaigned as the "Clean Slate" team in the April 27 school board election, promising to vote no on reappointing professionals they feel represented the hand-picked, long-time professionals put in place during Michael Ritacco's time as superintendent. the same day he was arrested on federal charges of bribery and tax evasion.
The professional contracts last night were voted upon individually. They each passed with a majority of the nine-member board vote.
Pavliv and Torrone voted against the approval of labor attorneys Kenney Gross Kovats and Parton at $140 per hour. Additionally, Giovine, Pavliv, and Torrone voted against the approval of auditor Holman and Frenia at a $73,000 contract.
Pavliv and Torrone voted against the approval of insurance brokers Conner Strong, Bob Regulski and AJ Gallagher and against the approval of Integrity Health, along with Giovine.
The approval of a workers compensation program including attorney R.C. Shea at $145 an hour with his annual fee to not exceed $90,000 was opposed by Torrone, and Pavliv, who is against self insurance program.
"It's well known where I stand on self-insurance, and I vote no," Pavliv said. He's said previously the district should investigate other avenues, on grounds it would be a cost-saving measure for the school system.
After the meeting, Torrone said she was not only displeased with the selection of professional contracts but with the voting process. Torrone said there needs to be , for the taxpayers and the school board.
"In the past, I was on the board, and it was not transparent," Torrone said.
For example, Giovine and Torrone mentioned that on the executive agenda the approval of contracts on Tuesday evening was known but was not conveyed on the public agenda. Torrone questioned if that was a violation of the Sunshine Law, which requires advance public notice, but Monahan stated that it was not.
The board has to give notice of the meeting and what they plan on discussing but that with the number of issues discussed during the executive sessions is always unknown due to time constraints, according to Monahan.
"You advise the public that is here that you're going into an executive session and you come out and you vote on what those things are," Monahan said. According to Monahan, the time constraints of executive sessions always effect the number of issues available to discuss.
Out of the approximately hundred attendees in the audience for the public session, less than a dozen stayed and waited for the board to return after its executive session behind closed doors to discuss the contract. The board returned from executive session at 11:15 p.m.