TRENTON – A New Jersey senator wants the Attorney General to investigate allegations of corruption and fraud in the National School Lunch program in the Elizabeth School District.
In the wake of a story in the Star-Ledger, Sen. Michael Doherty, (R-23), Washington Township, sent a letter today to Attorney General Paula Dow asking her to investigate reports that ineligible students are enrolled in the program.
The Star-Ledger reported that the president of the Elizabeth School Board, a principal, and a custodian supervisor all have children in the program that provides free and reduced lunches.
In his letter to Dow, Doherty said, “Last year, when you appeared before the Senate Budget Committee, I informed you about the potential for abuse of the free and reduced price lunch program, and how enrolling a student in the program triggers an ‘At Risk’ designation, which results in an additional $6,000-$7,000 of state school aid for a student.”
This additional aid can total hundreds of millions of dollars statewide, Doherty said in his letter.
In his letter, Doherty also referenced a report in June by the state Auditor that found that 37 percent of the students signed up for the lunch program were ineligible.
“It appears that the type of fraud uncovered in Elizabeth may be rampant,’’ Doherty said.
Doherty also sent a request to acting Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf to look into the reports as well.
20th District lawmakers seek investigation
Later today, 20th District Democratic lawmakers also issued a call to state and federal officials for investigations.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak, and Assembly members Joseph Cryan and Annette Quijano called for a probe into the lunch program.
“We fully support the school lunch program for children from low income families,” they said in a joint letter. “To restore confidence in its integrity, we ask for a swift and thorough investigation of its implementation by the Elizabeth School District and that legal action be taken against the President of the Board of Education and the principal and teacher cited in the (Star-Ledger) article should the facts prove they fraudulently abused the program.
“Also, we ask that the district administration be investigated for complicity in the fraud and abuse.”
They sent the letter to both the state and federal attorneys general, the Union County prosecutor, the U.S. inspector general, and the Agriculture secretary. The Agriculture Department administers the program.