Elizabeth Board of Education President Tony Monteiro issued a statement this evening on the arrests earlier today of School Board allies on obstruction of justice charges.
“We are all very shocked and saddened to hear about the charges against Board Counsel Kirk Nelson as well as former board member John Donoso and his wife and outside counsel Frank Capece in connection with allegations of an attempt to file false applications by the Donosos for school lunch assistance and to hide information regarding food service applications from before 2011,” Monteiro said.
“This Board will not tolerate those who would illegally seek to receive a benefit from a program meant for students in dire financial need, a benefit received by most of the 22,000 students in the district, the 4th largest in the state. Last year, following the allegations against Board member Marie Munn, the Board adopted safeguards that require any board member, or any school employee making over certain amounts, to automatically have their income audited before they could receive these benefits. Kirk Nelson, as full-time Board General counsel, worked tirelessly to make sure that these abuses could not be repeated and to assure that the District fully complied with all subpoenas from law enforcement agencies.
“In order to assist him, the Board retained an outside counsel specializing in criminal law to further provide advice to him and to actually produce the materials to the investigating authorities (other than Mr. Capece). The District fully cooperated with authorities regarding this investigation, including recently answering follow up questions from prosecutors.All of the defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and they will have their day in Court. Without making any judgment as to the conduct of the Donosos or Mr. Capece, the allegations leveled against Mr. Nelson, the only board employee implicated, are inconceivable; we have every confidence that Mr. Nelson, an incredibly talented and caring lawyer whose devotion to following the law is clear to anyone who knows him, will be fully exonerated.”