Shore Regional High School ex-business administrator pleads guilty

FREEHOLD – The former business administrator for the Shore Regional High School District pleaded guilty Monday to a series of charges related to the theft of school funds, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Dennis Kotch, former business administrator pleaded guilty to several charges.

Dennis Kotch, 41, of Wall, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon by way of an Accusation charging him with two counts of second degree Official Misconduct, two counts of third degree Theft by Unlawful Taking, one count of third degree Misapplication of Entrusted Property, and one count of Insurance Fraud. Kotch entered his guilty plea before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley.

As part of the plea agreement, this Office will make a sentencing recommendation of non-custodial probation conditioned on permanent forfeiture of public office, community service, and restitution to the Shore Regional High School District in the amount of $30,020.99.

Sentencing is scheduled for Friday, August 4, 2017, before Judge Oxley.

The charges stem from an almost year-long investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office prompted by a complaint from the school district that Kotch may have been involved in the theft of district funds. Kotch resigned his position on or about May 13, 2016, a week after the investigation was initiated. The investigation revealed Kotch unilaterally, and without Board of Education approval, hired a paid intern from January 2015 through May 2016. This intern was paid to do work that was Kotch’s responsibility, much of which was done by the intern remotely from Florida where she was attending college. The intern was paid $27,439.95 over this time period.

Additionally, the investigation revealed Kotch spent twenty-two work days out of the district, often out-of-state, without using vacation time or other leave time.

As a condition of his guilty plea, Kotch will be required to pay the school district back for the unauthorized monies paid to the intern, $27,439.95, and an additional $2,581.04, the total of his per diem rate for 3.5 days, which represents the difference between the twenty-two days he was out of the district without taking leave and the 18.5 vacation days he had accrued at the time he resigned from his district.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco.

Kotch is represented by Jason A. Volet, Esq., of Neptune Township.

A lifetime in entertainment and dining comes together

By Neil Schulman

Dining and entertaining have always been a part of Jerry Spathis’ life, and he’s combined decades of experience in both of them in Spathis Management Company.

Jerry Spathis

Jerry has been involved with restaurants since he was a child, thanks to his father.

“My father is my hero, James Spathis,” Jerry said. James, originally from Greece, came to America in 1959, saved his money, and started a restaurant.

And entertainment was part of that restaurant, Spathis remembers. Singers and musicians such as Al Martino, Harry James and the Glenn Miller Orchestra played there — and Jerry was listening from a young age, thanks to his father.

“At five years old, he was actually bringing us to the restaurant to learn how to cook,” Spathis said.

In 1979, Spathis became the banquet manager of the Dorian Manor (now the Grand Marquis) in Old Bridge, booking weddings bar and bat mitzvahs and other special occasions. He worked in several related positions, eventually opening his own restaurant in Edison in 2000 — and bringing in entertainment acts.

“It was considered a supper club,” Spathis said. “You had to make a reservation two months in advance.”

In 2003, he sold it, deciding to get into the entertainment business. While booking acts was something he knew well, this was a different side of the industry.

“I didn’t know anything about the entertainment business as far as running it,” he said.

He started by booking himself — he now does about 350 shows a year as a solo artist — and gradually developed accounts. Today, he represents more than 50 artists.

Then, last year, he decided to expand, moving from just managing entertainers into event planning. This brings together bakers, caterers and entertainers, who can take care of everything from the menu to the Viennese table.

Spathis has put on numerous private parties, including some at restaurants in Rumson and Sea Bright.

Spathis Management Co. handles corporate events, private parties, weddings, surprise parties and more.

For those who would like to succeed as artists, he has some advice from his years of experience both performing and managing. The biggest one is to be true to yourself.

“Follow your dreams. Don’t ever listen to the naysayers. Work hard; work smart.”

But time management is also a part of it. And he says you should learn from experience.

“Find a mentor who’s successful in the field you want to be in,” Spathis said. Ask them where they stumbled, so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Spathis has written a book, “Empowering the Leader Within,” available on Amazon.

For more information on Spathis Management, contact Jerry Spathis at 732-710-1370 or yellowjerryspathis@aol.com.

 

Three options, all with some issues, for new schools

By Neil Schulman Oceanport — The Oceanport Board of Education looked at eight options for replacing or renovating its school buildings last week, and left with three, one of which wasn’t listed as a choice.    

Board of Education member Cullin Wible discusses the options for a referendum at a special workshop meeting.

After a special May 10 Board of Education meeting to discuss a potential referendum, the board narrowed the options down to 1) replacing the Wolf Hill School building, parts of which are more than a century old, with a new structure and making some comparatively minor changes to Maple Place School; 2) Purchasing new land on Fort Monmouth, near the planned Oceanport municipal complex, and building a new school for pre-kindergarten to eighth grade; 3) acquiring the former CommVault building and converting it into a new school for students.

The first two options would both have price tags of roughly $30 million. Not enough work has been done on the third option to have a price estimate.

Business Administrator Dr. Joan Saylor prepared a very rough estimate of what the project might cost taxpayers. Based on current assessments, and assuming a 20-year bond with 4 percent interest, a $10 million referendum would cost the average Oceanport resident (whose house is assessed at $447,000) $236 a year . A $25 million referendum would cost $579 a year. She emphasized those were “first glance” figures, not final calculations, which would need more data.

“This is only potential, and this is only estimates,” she said.      Residents at the meeting said that price and effect on taxes was going to be a factor in whether they supported a referendum.

“I said (at a board meeting) in January I was going to bring in a hat and pass it around so I could pay my taxes,” said resident Therese Falcone.  Issues with builds

Board member Natalie Papailiou said that the board’s ad hoc committee in charge of evaluating proposals was “interested in solutions that do not involve relocating students.”

While renovations at Maple Place School are relatively minor — adding some new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) labs for modern education techniques and a few other changes — Wolf Hill work is more extensive, and several of the options reviewed would require finding a new location for the 335 students who attend.

Superintendent Thomas Ferrell, who also serves as the Superintendent of the West Long Branch Schools, says that if the students were temporarily sent to another district, they’d have to be broken up. West Long Branch, Eatontown, and other local elementary schools just couldn’t accommodate that many.

Board member Michele McMullen said that school representatives met with the owners and brokers for the former CommVault property to see if that property could be used for relocating the students, and they seemed “quite amenable to working with us.”

There is space in the building to accommodate all the students, and the property includes fields which would be good for outdoor activities.

“It would fit our needs perfectly,” she said. But she added that it would add a lot to the referendum costs if students were relocated there as a new building was put up, since the price “is more than $1 million a year.”

Bill Pappalardo of JBA Architecture said that early in the planning process he had reviewed the possibility of making a three-story, K-8 building on the Wolf Hill School property, but rejected it because it would be impossible to fit athletic fields there. He also noted that Maple Place School can’t be expanded too much due to the amount of wet lands on the property that keep it from being developed.

Any attempts to keep most of Wolf Hill would have required significant renovations, as it no longer meets modern standards. Cafeterias are no longer located in basements, and the many stairs and other issues mean it is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Having all K-8 students in a single building could result in some cost savings in the long run. For example, only one school nurse would be needed.     FMERA, the agency that controls development of the former Fort Monmouth property, offered two possible locations. The board rejected one as too difficult to procure; part of it is in Eatontown and would require complex legal procedures to move within Oceanport’s borders.

The other one also has concerns. Perhaps the biggest is that FMERA will not let the board negotiate directly for the property. It would need to go out for a bid – and properties zoned for school use have proven popular elsewhere, which means it might be difficult to obtain.

And in a Catch-22 situation, the board cannot hold a referendum asking to build the school there until it has secured the land, but cannot get money to secure the land without holding a referendum to get the bonding in place.

The municipal government of Oceanport can negotiate with FMERA directly, which is how it secured the land for the municipal complex, so the school might ask them to act as an intermediary if they pursue this option. It’s also possible that the school would appeal to Trenton to change who FMERA (controlled by the state) can negotiate with.

Since it was only a workshop meeting, no formal action was taken. More discussion is expected at the May 24 board meeting. If they decide to go forward with a referendum, it won’t be on the ballot until November or December at the earliest.

Chicken ordinance pros and cons flutter around, some cry fowl

By Coleen Burnett
Eatontown — A hot-button issue continued at the Eatontown Council meeting May 10 — the so-called “chicken ordinance” was front and center once again.
Currently no chickens are allowed in the borough.  Some residents received notices last year that they were keeping them illegally, sparking a movement to put together an ordinance to allow such animals. The proposal ended up being voted down by the Borough Council.

The newest proposal, first broached in February of this year, contains a series of checks and balances that virtually guarantee that only those who are very serious about raising chickens even attempt the project.

For starters, there is a $25 permit fee, payable to the Zoning Board. There are limits on lot size. No roosters are allowed. No condo or mobile home owners will be allowed to have the chickens — only lots in single family residential areas.

All electrical hookups must be underground, to prevent extension cords from running to a coop via a hookup from the house. No chickens can be slaughtered on a homeowner’s property — they must be humanely removed.  Should a chicken owner sell his property, the subsequent homeowner cannot be grandfathered in;  should the new owner want chickens, the process must begin anew.

Those are just a few of the restrictions. Mayor Dennis Connelly, for one, said he’s become an expert on the feathered bird.

“I will say I have learned more about chickens than I ever thought I could… I don’t think that anyone who wants to raise chickens in our town is a bad person. There’s probably a lot of good people who want to do something nice with this ordinance, but it’s actually a very disgusting thing how chickens are raised in this country.”

He is still not convinced that the ordinance is a good idea. “Every time I look at it and review it, I find more and more issues that I didn’t know about,” he said.

The mayor was concerned about the time, attention and money pressures that the ordinance will put on Animal Control, Zoning, and the police department, adding that the $25 fee will not even begin to cover the expense.  He drew on his own experiences as a former patrolman in the borough.

“When it starts to be something that would affect a neighborhood, that’s a problem,” he said.

As a final caution, he shared his concern that even if the ordinance is voted in, there will be a small group that will choose to ignore the rules.

“Some people will follow, and some others won’t. The people that don’t follow it mess it up for the rest of us,” he said.
Then it was the public’s turn.

One woman said the complaints would never stop. “If my neighbors kept chickens, my dog is gonna go crazy. I don’t know how this is going to be monitored and how it will be enforced because when it was illegal, people still had them. So now what will happen when people can have chickens?”

Councilwoman Virginia East, who helped craft the ordinance, said there would not be a huge run to make the birds the latest Eatontown house pet.

“With all the things that are required in this ordinance,  I don’t think people will say, ‘Oh yeah, I can have chickens now.’ It’s a lot of details and work they have to go through to establish the chickens,” she said.

Another resident was not so sure. “Keeping chickens in your yard is a lot more humane than say, getting eggs from a grocery store where you don’t really know what’s happening to those animals,” she said. “We have weathermen who predict the weather and get it wrong almost every time. Making assumptions about how irresponsible the residents will be concerning the chickens is unfair.”

The public hearing is scheduled for June 28.

Herrington Joins Urban Coast Institute as Associate Director

WEST LONG BRANCH – Dr. Thomas Herrington has been appointed as the first associate director of the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI). The hire reflects the UCI’s continued growth and Monmouth’s commitment as the “Coastal University” to expand its capacity as a leading research and policy center.

Herrington has extensive experience working at the state, regional and national level and is one of New Jersey’s leading experts on coastal processes, beach management and ocean engineering. He will work closely with UCI staff, Monmouth faculty, students and other partners to help find solutions to the challenges facing coastal communities, sustainable coastal economies and health ocean ecosystems.

Prior to joining the UCI, Herrington served as the director of the ocean engineering graduate program at the Stevens Institute of Technology from 2007-17 and the director of the New Jersey Coastal Protection Technical Assistance Service from 2002-17. He has over 25 years of experience in coastal sustainability and hazard mitigation research, including the analysis of storm surge and wave impacts on coastal communities. He is well acquainted with the UCI, having recently served as a member of its Advisory Committee.

“Tom is uniquely positioned to make the UCI a stronger organization and have an immediate impact on our ability to work with coastal communities on a wider variety of issues. We are thrilled to have him aboard,” said UCI Director Tony MacDonald. “This year’s fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy reminds us not only of the progress we have made, but the many steps that are still necessary to prepare for future major storms and sea level rise. Monmouth University and the Jersey Shore are fortunate to have one of the East Coast’s leading voices on beaches and coastal resilience here to help lead the way.”

“The beach has always been a major part of my life, going back to my days growing up in Ocean City, New Jersey,” said Herrington, now a resident of Monroe. “I’m excited for the opportunity to work at the shore and contribute to an organization that is poised to make transformational impact in coastal science and policy.”

Herrington has authored or coauthored over 100 journal, outreach and technical publications in the field of coastal and ocean engineering, including the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium’s Manual for Coastal Hazard Mitigation, and is a contributing author to “Blue Dunes: Climate Change by Design.” He is a contributing scientist to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Post-Sandy North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study and the New Jersey State Hazard Mitigation Plan.

He serves on the FEMA Region II Coastal Outreach Advisory Team and is on the Board of Directors of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association and the Jersey Shore Partnership. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering as well as master’s and doctorate in Ocean Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology.

About the Urban Coast Institute

The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) was established in 2005 as one of Monmouth University’s “Centers of Distinction.” The UCI’s mission is to serve Monmouth University and the public interest as a forum for research, education and collaboration in the development and implementation of science-based policies and programs that support stewardship of healthy, productive and resilient coastal ecosystems and communities. Visit www.monmouth.edu/uci for more information.

Students learn about Elberon

By Neil Schulman
Long Branch — While the George L. Catrambone School is located in Elberon, many of the students are unfamiliar with the neighborhood. On Friday, teachers took time to correct that with a day around the neighborhood.

Students started by visiting Mayor Adam Schneider’s law office, then went to the Elberon Fire Department. This was followed by visits to the Elberon Library, talks on safety by the Long Branch Police, and more.

The Link caught up with the students while they were visiting the Long Branch Fire Deparment at the Elberon Engine Company Firehouse.
Firefighters told the students that the reasons there are so many firehouses in Long Branch is that when most were built more than 100 years ago, fire wagons were pulled by horses, who couldn’t pull heavy wagons across the city. So when there was an alarm, the firefighters who lived in the building or nearby would hitch up the horses and ride to it.

As times changed, fire trucks started running on gas, and people working far away from home so they couldn’t always respond to a fire call, the system changed. That’s why today in Long Branch there’s a mix of professional and volunteer firefighters, and a few of the buildings have been retired.
The firefighters then spoke to the students about fire safety, and the equipment that firefighters use.

Some advice they mentioned was that if you’re stuck in a fire, do not try to hide. When the firefighters come in to a smoke filled, they’ll be using thermal imaging devices to look for the heat that people give off. If you’re in a closet, the devices can’t detect your heat through the door.

‘Presidents at the Jersey Shore’ special viewing

The Long Branch Historical Association will hold a Road Trip Meeting to the Eden Woolley House, 703 Deal Road, Ocean, for a special viewing for the Presidents at the Monmouth County Shore exhibit on Wed., May 31, 7 p.m.

Seven American Presidents chose Long Branch to escape the heat of summers in Washington DC, and while the LBHA’s museum, Church of the Presidents, is under reconstruction you can join them on Wed. May 31 and have the opportunity to view many of their artifacts not seen for more than 30 years.

This is a special viewing of the exhibit, which closes in June. It tells the wide-ranging stories of 11 Presidents who spent time here, at the Monmouth County shore.

The event is free, open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

MMC names Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Long Branch — Monmouth Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, has named Alieu Nyassi Director of Diversity and Inclusion.
In this role, Nyassi will work to develop programs that further support Monmouth Medical Center’s mission of diversity, inclusion and cultural competency.

He will also serve as a liaison to the community by helping to identify potential disparities in care and better define the social determinants of health for different populations served by the hospital.

Prior to joining Monmouth Medical Center, Nyassi worked as the Program Director for Cultural Competency, Inclusion and Community Health at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).  In this role, he led efforts to ensure consistency, collaboration and advancement of diversity initiatives throughout all 20 UPMC hospitals.

Nyassi began his career in The Gambia as a youth development professional and has extensive international development work and travel experience in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. With a passion for community service and serving the underserved, Nyassi co-founded Kafo International Corp, Friends of Penyem and Growing Gambia, initiatives dedicated to help young people, especially girls in The Gambia, to acquire a high school/vocational education and to help local communities access clean water and basic health care needs.

Nyassi received his Bachelor of Science in Human Resources from Oakland University and his Masters in Science in Executive Leadership and Organizational Change from Northern Kentucky University.

He resides in Red Bank.

Ocean Community Pool Opens May 27

OCEAN TOWNSHIP – The Ocean Community Pool, 615 West Park Ave., will open for the season on Saturday, May 27. Municipal pool complex features 3 pools, picnic areas and more.

The municipal pool complex features three pools – a large main pool with separate lap area, a dive pool and an infant/toddler pool – shaded picnic areas, a snack bar and basketball and sand volleyball courts, all in a beautiful park setting. A variety of supervised activities are offered daily for children, including arts & crafts, story time and active games. Swim lessons for youth and adults are available.

The facility will be open on weekends and limited hours through June 21. Summer hours will begin on June 22, when the facility will be open daily through September 4.

Individual and family memberships may be purchased at the pool complex, the Department of Human Services office, 601 Deal Road, or online at oceantwp.org. A variety of memberships are available including evening memberships, and there are discounted senior rates for adults age 62 and older. Township residents may purchase daily passes for themselves and their guests.

For more information, please call 732-531-2600 or visit oceantwp.org.