Former Business Administrator for Knowlton Board of Education Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $70,000 from the School District

TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that the former business administrator for the Knowlton Township Board of Education pleaded guilty today to embezzling approximately $70,000 from the school district.

Kevin M. Mulligan, 34, of Hasbrouck Heights, pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree official misconduct before Superior Court Judge Robert B. Reed in Warren County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to three years in state prison. Mulligan must pay full restitution to the school district and forfeit his entire state pension. He will be permanently barred from public employment.

Deputy Attorney General Mallory Shanahan prosecuted the case and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Mulligan was charged as the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau and the Division of Criminal Justice. Judge Reed scheduled sentencing for Mulligan for Oct. 24.

In pleading guilty, Mulligan admitted that between July and December 2013, he stole approximately $70,000 from the Knowlton Township School District in Warren County by writing fraudulent checks against the district’s bank accounts that were made payable to himself or, in one instance, to someone he owed money. Mulligan began working for the district in June 2013 and abruptly resigned in December 2013.

“Mulligan corruptly used his position to embezzle $70,000 that should have been used for the vital mission of educating students in this kindergarten through 6th grade school district,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “It’s always a serious crime when a public official steals taxpayer funds, but it’s particularly egregious when those who suffer the consequences are young children.”

“By sending this school administrator to prison, we will deter other officials who might consider stealing public monies to address their personal financial problems,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about the misuse of school funds or resources to contact us confidentially so we can investigate and prosecute those responsible.”

Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.

As business administrator, Mulligan was a signatory on the district’s three checking accounts and was responsible for paying all of the district’s bills and its payroll. The state’s investigation revealed that Mulligan created four fraudulent checks totaling $66,550 that he made payable to himself, but that he entered into the district’s computer system as checks to various approved vendors or recipients, including a check for $43,455 falsely entered as a payment to the New Jersey Municipal Employee Benefit Fund, as well as checks he falsely entered as having been paid to a heating oil supplier, an electrical contractor and a book publisher.

The general account required that checks be signed by the school board president and its treasurer, as well as Mulligan, but Mulligan had signature stamps for them. For each false check from the general account, Mulligan went into the check printing software and changed the name and address of the pre-approved vendor or recipient in the “remit to” section to his own name and address. After printing the check, he re-entered the system to change that section back to the approved party.

Mulligan also wrote a school district check for $1,000 payable to a hockey instructor he hired for a youth hockey camp he operated. In addition, he overpaid himself $600 on his first paycheck, and overpaid himself $1,869 on a check he received as reimbursement for waiving certain pension benefits. He paid himself at the “teacher” rate, when he was entitled to a lesser rate in his position.

The thefts were discovered after Mulligan resigned, when district staff received a canceled check for $10,362 dated December 13, 2013, which was made payable to Mulligan, but was entered into district records as a payment to the district’s heating oil supplier. District staff checked with the vendor, which had not received the payment. The district conducted an audit and discovered additional fraudulent checks made payable to Mulligan. It referred the case to the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice for criminal investigation.

The investigation was conducted for the State Police Official Corruption Bureau by Detective Martin Halligan and Detective Sgt. Kenneth Lutz. It was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Mallory Shanahan, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, who is Bureau Chief.

Gornik a gentle giant passes away

The Link News offers our deepest sympathy to the family of Patrick Gornik, a young man that was known as a gentle giant. Patrick had been fighting cancer for a year and lost his battle on September 12.

Patrick was a graduate of Shore Regional High School, Class of 2006, where he excelled in sports. His physical stature was impressive standing tall and on a big muscular frame. But with all that size and strength he was really a very sensitive guy.

On Facebook many of his classmates have been posting all their memories of Pat and some of the funny incidents that he was involved in. And scanning the post it is obvious that Pat had many friends while he was in school and those numbers grew after graduation.

January 2013 he was sworn in as a Patrolman with the Oceanport Police Department. Shortly after working in the field he so loved, it was discovered that he had cancer. He bravely battled that horrific disease for a year.

One friend stated that last week he received news from his doctors that it condition was beyond treatment and that they estimated he had two weeks to live. That night Pat called his friends and went out and celebrated, he was upbeat and happy said that friend.

When others found out about his condition, a celebration of life party was organized for September 13, and it was held at the Port-Au-Peck Fire House. The original plans called for Pat to be in attendance and it said no tears, just beers.

Unfortunately, Pat didn’t make the party. But his spirit was alive and well and tears were flowing, as it is always difficult when a young person leaves us.

John E. Day Funeral Home in Red Bank will be handling the service. Tuesday, September 16, a viewing will be held from 2-4 and 7-9. The funeral will be on Wednesday starting at 10:30 a.m. at Days Funeral Hume with a procession to Woodbine Cemetery in Oceanport.

LB BOE changes September meeting date

The Long Branch Board of Education have given notice that the Regular Board Meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday, September 24, 2014 has been rescheduled to Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in the Long Branch Middle School Auditorium, 350 Indiana Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey. They also stated “action” may be taken at this meeting.

Notice was also given that the Long Branch Board of Education’s Agenda Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 23, 2014 was rescheduled to Tuesday, September, 16, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Confere

LB BOE has changed the September meeting date to the 17th at 7:00pm

nce Room on the third floor at 540 Broadway, Long Branch. “Action” may be taken at this meeting.

Busted tail light and littering leads to prostitution arrests

Ocean Township – Detective Michael Melody was on routine patrol when he noticed a car with a broken tail light. It was 3:35 in the afternoon on September 9, and the car was approaching the Asbury Park traffic circle.

Just as Melody was going to pull over the vehicle he noticed the front seat passenger throw something out the window. That is when he pulled the car over on State Highway 35.

In a prepared statement issued by Detective Lieutenant Kevin L. Faller, he stated that the driver of the car was identified as 67-year old Kenneth Melson of Toms River and the passenger was Kahajanee Reevey, 20, Asbury Park.

“An further investigation by Detective Melody revealed that Mr. Melson had solicited Ms. Reevey for sex for money at a local motel. Both subjects were placed under arrest,” Faller wrote.

Melson was charged with solicitation for prostitution as well as two motor vehicle violations. Reevey was charged with promoting prostitution and issued a motor vehicle summonses for littering. Both subjects were released on a complaint summonses to appear at a future court hearing.

Clearwater remembers the legendary Pete Seeger

By Neil Schulman

Long Branch — The theme of the 39th Annual New Jersey Friends of Clearwater’s Clearwater Festival, taking place this Saturday, is “What Would Pete Do?” a tribute to Clearwater founder Pete Seeger.
Ingrid Heldt, Vice President of the group, knows what Pete would do because she spent extensive time with him, becoming friends over the last decade.

(Elliot Stephen Cohen photo) Ingrid Heldt with Pete Seeger at the Beth Israel Music Awards Ceremony in Manhattan in 2013. Heldt, the Vice President of New Jersey Friends of Clearwater, will be at this year’s festival, with the theme “What Would Pete Do?” (ALL_RIGHTS_RESERVED © Elliot Stephen Cohen)

Seeger’s folk songs, such as “If I Had A Hammer” and “Turn Turn Turn,” have become known around the world. When Seeger first showed Heldt a German translation of Where Have All The Flowers Gone, and asked her to perform it, she was surprised – because she’d heard the song on Marlene Dietrich albums as a child and assumed it was an old German folk song, not realizing Seeger had written it.

But Seeger was also an environmentalist. The Clearwater Festival is named for the sloop Clearwater, which he sailed down the Hudson River, singing songs to raise awareness of water pollution.

Seeger passed away this year, at the age of 94.

Heldt first met him a decade ago, when a friend of hers, Spook Handy, sent a song to Seeger to look at. Pete liked it, and invited Spook to perform in a concert in his hometown of Beacon, New York. They would go on to become close friends and musical partners, with Handy frequently backing up Seeger.

Handy will be one of the many people who knew or was influenced by Seeger playing at this Saturday’s festival.

During one event a while back, Heldt decided to go to the Clearwater booth there, to see if she could resolve an issue with her membership.

“I walk up to the booth, and it’s Pete himself manning it,” she recalled. Seeger explained that he was there to give the organizers a chance to get some lunch, and invited her to stay and talk.

After that, she made regular visits to Beacon, attending concerts, a Circle of Song, weekly peace gatherings, and getting to know Seeger. She estimates she travelled 60,000 miles in round trips to visit him in the last decade.

Heldt, who has four CDs of her own and has written music for commercials, also worked with him musically. They co-wrote a couple of songs together. One of them, Seeger had the melody and first verse, which had been written by Malvina Reynolds, the songwriter who penned his hit “Little Boxes.” Heldt wrote a couple of more verses.

She also helped him on a song “Raise Your Voice,” which he described as “a lullaby for future rebels.”

Seeger seemed tireless, she said. He was the first to arrive at concerts, and the last to leave, gathering the garbage and taking it away in his electric van.

For years, when he performed the song John Henry, he split wood on stage to illustrate the song about the steel driving man. When his insurance company said this was a liability, he instead got a large hammer and anvil. Heldt said she could barely lift the hammer, but saw Seeger using it while performing four years ago, when he was 90.

He was a source of inspiration, she said. For example, he encouraged her to make a version of the folk song “The Water is Wide.”

“He said a lot of people have recorded it, everybody likes it … you should make it a number one song,” Heldt said. “It’s a nice idea. I definitely would record it. Pete wrote one verse for it; I’m definitely doing Pete’s verse.”

Heldt has done more than just music. Her photography has been recognized, especially around this time of year.

“I don’t know if I had a premonition or not, but I took 400 photos of the World Trade Center towers when they were beautiful,” she said. When she developed them, the light reflecting off the Twin Towers was so bright that sometimes the image was blanked out.

After Sept. 11, she used these images in a video to her song “Poetry in Stone.” It drew heavy attention around the internet.

Seeger’s work inspired Heldt to help start the Circle of Song for the New Jersey Friends of Clearwater. Unlike many circles, which fade away after a year or so, this one is thriving after four years, with both singers and listeners attending the monthly sessions. It began at the Asbury Park United Methodist Church, but outgrew that space and moved to a coffee house, then outgrew that and moved to the Eatontown Community Center this year.

The first session at the Eatontown Community Center was just after Seeger died. Sixty people attended, more than the old venues could have handled.

The Circle is held the first Sunday of each month, 2-4 p.m. Donations collected are split between the food pantry at the Asbury Park church and Friends of Clearwater.

One of the attractions at this year’s Clearwater Festival is a Circle of Song. One of the three stages will feature more than a dozen musicians, many of who knew or were inspired by Seeger. In addition, visitors will be given an opportunity to go on stage and perform.

The Circle of Song Stage is in addition to two other stages, featuring local favorites such as The Wag and Goldenseal.

It’s possible a few surprises will take place as well. One year, Bruce Springsteen dropped by.

The Clearwater Festival will be held on Sept. 13, 11 a.m.-7 a.m. on the Great Lawn. For more information visit www.mcclearwater.org/festival.php.

No identification on dead man at Monmouth Park

By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr

Oceanport – The Link News reported on September 9, that the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Oceanport Police Department were investigating what appeared to be a murder in the stable area of Monmouth Park Race Track.

September 9, a dead man was discovered at Monmouth Park Race Track stable area

According to reports a Hispanic male was found beaten with possible stab wounds to the chest and throat area near a trash compactor outside barn 31. Charles Webster, spokesperson for the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office would not confirm nor deny those reports.

“The best I can tell you right now is that the deceased male was found at Monmouth Park and an investigation is ongoing. An autopsy is scheduled and his identity should be determined at that time,” said Webster on September 10.

During our research of this death several people who work on the backside of the track stated that the victim had worked in the stable area last year and part of this season but was ejected from Monmouth Park for an unknown reason.

Another person told us that there is a hole in the fence that runs along the track property that belongs to New Jersey Transit. According to this person, the rumor was that the victim had snuck back into Monmouth Park through that hole and was living in one of the barns.

One person stated that the victim was beaten with what appeared to be a tree branch or board and had stab wounds and his throat was cut.

As more information becomes available we will update the story.

LB Police finally stop white SUV

On Wednesday afternoon LB Police were involved in a high speed chase pursuing a speeding white SUV throughout Long Branch streets. Many cop cars chased him down Cedar Ave. to Brighton, down different streets and finally stopped him on Bath Ave., in front of Westwood Village.

It is not known at this point why the vehicle was being pursued.

Dead man discovered at Monmouth Park

According to reports the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Oceanport Police Department are investigating the death of an alleged Hispanic male that was discovered around Barn 31 in the stable area.

According to workers at Monmouth Park the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office is still on site as is the Monmouth County Medical Examiner.

As soon as we get more information it will be posted her.

Gas line repaired in West Long Branch

The gas line leak that was being worked on on Broadway, West Long Branch has been repaired. Kids from the Gingerbread House, which were relocated to WLB Borough Hall, are now back in the preschool. All is well.