North Bergen School District Continues to Violate Law, Waste Public Funds, Risk Favoritism, OSC Report Finds

The district made “little progress” when it fully implemented only two of 15 recommendations from a 2019 OSC audit.

  • Posted on - 07/28/2022


TRENTON – A report released today by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) finds North Bergen School District has implemented only two of 15 recommendations from a 2019 audit.  

OSC’s 2019 audit found weaknesses in the District’s fiscal and operating practices, particularly regarding payments of employee benefits, in addition to a failure to comply with Public School Contracts Law and poor oversight of procurements and payments for legal and public relations services. North Bergen submitted a corrective action plan to OSC after the 2019 audit.  

Today’s review finds the District fully implemented only two of OSC’s recommendations, partially implemented six, and failed entirely to implement the remaining seven.  

The District has not strengthened its policies for the administration and processing of employee leave benefits. As a result, many of the District’s policies and payments expected to be made pursuant to those policies are in violation of state law.  

OSC’s review also confirmed the District continues to make annual payments to employees for unused vacation time, identifying 16 employees who together received over $125,000 in such payments in fiscal year 2020.  

North Bergen School District’s implementation of recommendations to comply with the Public School Contracts Law are also inadequate, according to the report. Practices related to the issuance of proper public notice, a missing requirement for competitive fee quotes and an undefined procedure for evaluating quotes all remain unchanged since the 2019 audit.  

“School Districts receive our taxes. We are entitled to expect them to be careful with the funds we send them.  We at minimum expect them to not waste the money and to comply with the law,“ said Acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh.  “We expect them to avoid favoritism and encourage competition before entering into contracts.  North Bergen School District is failing in some of the most basic ways to protect public funds – even after our 2019 audit highlighted these problems.”  

OSC also found that the District has not fully implemented recommendations to reevaluate its use of law firms, the monitoring of all legal services or the retention of a public relations consulting firm. While the District did ensure payments for legal services do not exceed board authorization, it failed to enact policies that ensure the efficient expenditure of taxpayer money. 

“The mere mention of the risk of awarding contracts based on favoritism should be enough to get North Bergen moving quickly in the right direction,” said Walsh.  “Instead, they provided a litany of excuses for not fully implementing 13 of our 15 recommendations.” 

For additional information on OSC’s oversight of local governments, see our report detailing violations of sick and vacation leave laws by municipalities. 

To report government fraud, waste, mismanagement or corruption, file a complaint with OSC or call 1-855-OSC-TIPS.

The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) is an independent State agency that works to make government in New Jersey more efficient, transparent and accountable. OSC is tasked with examining all aspects of government expenditures, conducts audits and investigations of government agencies throughout New Jersey, reviews government contracts, and works to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in Medicaid.

Stay up-to-date with the latest from OSC by following us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Instagram at @NewJerseyComptroller.

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