District’s review of classroom trailers delayed by prosecutor’s probe

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Central Elementary School classroom trailers, seen here in September 2019, were removed over the summer. THE COAST STAR FILE PHOTO

WALL TOWNSHIP — The school district’s review of the Central Elementary School classroom trailer controversy will probably not conclude until January, because the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office also is investigating the matter and has asked the district to hold off on interviewing people involved, according to the school board attorney.

The prosecutor’s office has told The Coast Star that it will not disclose whether or not it is conducting an investigation regarding the trailer issue. 

Two trailers that had housed four classrooms at the school since 2007 were removed this summer after deterioration was discovered during a repair project in the summer of 2019. Parents at that time complained about the condition of the trailers and how the matter was communicated to them by the district administration.

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One resident, Betsy Cross, has continued over the past year to question the board about the trailer matter, and has requested numerous documents relating to the trailers via the Open Public Records Act.

In September, the school board authorized its attorney, Anthony P. Sciarrillo, to go forward with an extensive review of how the trailer situation was handled, after a review by former interim Superintendent Henry G. Cram was deemed insufficient by the board.

“We have been posting updates weekly on our website on the status of our trailer audit. As part of that audit, we reached out for the prosecutor’s office to inquire as to what if any investigation was being done by the prosecutor’s office. It was our understanding when we took over this project that there may have been a prosecutor’s investigation that may have been closed,” Mr. Sciarrillo said during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

“The communication with the prosecutor’s office was that, in fact, there was an open investigation with the trailer project. We had a discussion with respect to what we were doing, and so pursuant to a memorandum of understanding between boards of education and law enforcement, we were directed by the prosecutor’s office to pause our interviews of individuals. We are permitted to continue to look at documents, which we will do … they did not give us a timeline for the completion of that investigation,” he said.

“With respect to anyone who wants to provide us with documents, with respect to anyone who wants to ask us about documents, I would encourage them to continue to use the email address that’s been posted on the ‘facilities’ portion of the [district’s] website. We will continue to provide updates,” Mr. Sciarrillo said. The email address is trailers@sciarrillolaw.com.

Board President Ralph Addonizio said, “The original timetable we were focused on having a report out to everybody by sometime in the beginning of November, that’s probably going to be pushed back to after the holidays.”

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Ms. Cross said, “I’m glad to hear the investigation with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office is still open. That is wonderful news … please, anyone who has information has got to get the information in … We’re going to get to the truth. It’s taken 14 months and we’re not there yet.”

Ms. Cross also accused the district administration of demolishing the trailers and withholding documents from her “while a criminal investigation was going on.”

Mr. Addonizio said, “Ms. Cross, there is no criminal investigation going on right now.”

“What type of investigation is going on, Ralph, tell me,” Ms. Cross asked.

“It’s not a criminal one,” Mr. Addonizio said.

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