ELIZABETH – School Board President Marie L. Munn’s attorney, Sean M. Pena, Esq, submitted this statement on behalf of his client:
Ms. Munn would like to respond to Ted Sherman’s article titled “Elizabeth school officials’ kids don’t pay full meal costs, records show” dated August 21, 2011 and published in the New Jersey Star Ledger.
It is and always has been Ms. Munn’s understanding that every parent and/or guardian with a child in the school district was required to execute a form to determine whether or not a child was eligible for free or reduced lunch. Ms. Munn has executed this form for no less than the past six years, and understood the form to be nothing more than administrative paperwork and not an application for free or reduced lunch. Ms. Munn was never informed, through this form or other avenues, the qualifications for free or reduced lunch, and only learned of these qualifications after the publication of the aforementioned article.
Ms. Munn executed the form, just like she had done every year, and did intentionally exclude her husband’s wages from the form at his request. Ms. Munn believed the exclusion of her husband’s wages to be of no consequence because Ms. Munn was certain her son would not qualify for free or reduced lunch because of her salary alone. Ms. Munn has always paid for her children’s lunch. It was Ms. Munn’s practice to always pay for her children’s lunch via check; however, with Ms. Munn’s increasingly busy schedule she found it difficult to manage her children’s lunch account balances.
With the ease of electronic banking Ms. Munn decided to terminate the use of bank checks for her children’s lunch account. Additionally, Ms. Munn preferred not to write checks any longer because if the check did not clear immediately or the check was not posted to the child’s lunch account, the child would receive an entirely different lunch than the other students, which was a source of embarrassment for the child. For convenience and to avoid potential embarrassment Ms. Munn would give her children lunch money for the week in cash. After the publishing of Mr. Sherman’s article, Ms. Munn inquired what her children did with the money and they informed her that they used the money to buy snacks during and/or after school.
Immediately upon learning of the discrepancy and the subsidized lunch her children received Ms. Munn requested that Kirk Nelson, Esq., who functions as the Board of Education’s attorney, investigate her children’s records to see if they received subsidized lunches. Mr. Nelson was able to locate records going back as far as six years, and these records reflected that Ms. Munn’s children did receive free lunch. In response, Ms. Munn immediately issued two payments to the Board of Education. One check in the amount of $450.00 on August 22, 2011 and another check in the amount of $2,232.50 on September 7th, 2011 paying in full for every free lunch her children ever received.
Ms. Munn would like to make a few things clear. Ms. Munn takes full responsibility for any oversight in regards to the payment of her children’s lunch. Ms. Munn has dealt with caring for her sick mother, fostering relatives who have had difficulties in these economic times, and has had personal health issues to deal with. Ms. Munn is a dedicated public servant and a tax payer who would never intentionally defraud the district or other tax payers. This is precisely why upon learning of this discrepancy Ms. Munn paid the district for all her children’s free lunches immediately and in full.
Additionally, Ms. Munn welcomes any investigation into this matter and will assist and cooperate fully in said investigation. Ms. Munn is extraordinarily apologetic for any negative light this situation has brought upon her district. However, Ms. Munn intends to remain as the president of the Board of Education for Elizabeth and intends to continue working diligently in furtherance of the goals of the board, the students, and the people of the community of Elizabeth.
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