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Investigators probe Asbury Park Board of Ed

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A school scandal is brewing in New Jersey Thursday.

Attorney general investigators raided a local school district, seizing documents and other items. Sources say the focus of the investigation into the Asbury Park School District centers on potentially improper bids for computers.

Education reporter Art McFarland has details from Asbury Park.

Unfortunately, this is one of the lowest performing school districts in the state. The scandal is brewing, even as students have generally not been getting the education that taxpayers have been paying for.

A state police vehicle and a truck for loading lots of documents spelled bad news Thursday for some administrators in the Asbury Park School District.

"The board was served with a search warrant this morning," school board attorney Alan Schnirman said. "The state is executing that search warrant and the central business office and another location that the district operates."

The state attorney general's office, which obtained the search warrant, would not say what they are investigating. But elected school board members say they suspect the investigation could involve illegal bidding on a multi-million computer bidding contract.

"We've been dealing with a computer company, which was a favorite of the superintendent, who has been suspended," school board member Frank D'Alessandro said.

Dr. Antonio Lewis was suspended in October as superintendent. He is said to have ties with the New Jersey-based computer firm known as ComWeb. Today's subpoena covered a search at the district's technology center.

"We had, for years, there were computers that were bought that were in the vault just stacked up," D'Allesandro said. "because they were really not very useful."

Over the past several years, board members say Dr. Lewis' administration has faced various allegations, including the misuse of school funds and improper hiring practices.

"Asbury Park has so many problems in our school district, and this board is really concerned about making everyone accountable," school board president Robert DiSanto said

It should be pointed out that most of the current board members were not involved in hiring the former superintendent. It is unclear if the search could lead to any criminal charges.

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