Coquito Conviction Has Potential To Bring Down Schools Boss

PERTH AMBOY — Hector Muniz was convicted in the Old Bridge Municipal Court because his crimes were too hot to handle on the northern side of the Raritan Bay due to politics.

Nancy Lau, an Old Bridge Township violations clerk, confirmed that Muniz, a former secretary employed by the Board of Education, was convicted July 31 for possession and sale of alcohol on school property.

Muniz peddled bottles of coquito, an alcoholic beverage made with egg yolks, rum, and coconut juice that is traditionally served in Puerto Rico during the Christmas holidays, during November and December of 2011.

Muniz operated with impunity until after school board members voted a second time to place Superintendent Janine Caffrey on administrative leave, when acting Superintendent Vivian Rodriguez suspended Muniz and several other staff members over the alcohol allegations.

When the people elected by Perth Amboy voters were over-ruled at the order of state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, Caffrey reinstated former Richardson School Principal Alvaro Cores, who was allegedly one of Muniz’s customers.

Another Richardson School secretary, Susan Nieves, filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the district, Caffrey, Cores and others asserting that when she reported the illegal coquito sales, she was reprimanded, suspended and transferred to another school.

Nieves alleged that parents and staff members — including Cores and Vice Principal Karen Moffatt — purchased coquito from Muniz.

In 2011, Caffrey hired Cores with the approval of the elected board members. Last year, the school board voted not to reappoint him as principal and he responded by filing a lawsuit.

In his own complaint, Cores certified that he told Muniz in December 2011 to remove a flier advertising the drink that was taped to his computer. Sources said Cores may face perjury charges because he offered testimony denying that the crime occurred.

Cores and Caffrey said there was never any alcoholic beverage in the school. Caffrey even claimed the district investigated the allegations and determined there were no violations.

Caffrey also allegedly retaliated against Rodriguez by assigning her to an office in the basement of an abandoned school then forcing the respected educator out of her job as assistant superintendent.

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