Brenda Moiso, former school board president, cleared in commission vote

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OCEAN CITY — On Friday, May 30, the State’s School Ethics Commission accepted a March 7, recommendation by Administrative Law Judge Damon Tymer to dismiss an ethics complaint filed against former Ocean City Board of Education President Brenda Moiso. 

“It’s over, it’s done,” said Mark Toscano, Moiso’s attorney. “The Ethics Commission decided to adopt the judge’s ruling that there was no violation of the school ethics act. Mrs. Moiso has been vindicated. There was no violation.

“Mrs. Moiso is obviously thrilled with the School Ethics Commission’s decision to adopt the judge’s initial recommendation,” said Toscano. “The judge’s decision found that as a matter of law, Mrs. Moiso did not and could not violate the School Ethics Act as alleged.”

Two years after it was filed, Tymer recommended that an ethics complaint filed against Moiso by Alice Wolf, a nurse at the Ocean City Primary School who now serves as the president of the Ocean City Education Association, be dismissed.

Tymer’s decision was referred back to the School Ethics Commission, which had final jurisdiction to render a decision. The Ethics Commission could vote to accept the judge’s decision, modify it or reject it, but they had to do so within 45 days. If they had failed to act, the recommended decision would have become final.

“Judge Tyner recognized that the food service report that appeared on the school board’s agenda and was voted on by Mrs. Moiso did not contain or authorize any payments to her company. Accordingly and consistent with prior school ethics decisions the judge found that the vote to accept the food service report  is not a violation of the school ethics act.

“The School Ethics Commission agreed with that finding,” Toscano said. “The probable cause finding was erroneous and based on facts that could not be true.”

Wolf alleged that Moiso violated the School Ethics Act when she voted at board meetings to compensate Sea Twist, a soft pretzel business that she owns with her husband.

In May, 2011, Don and Brenda Moiso purchased a soft pretzel franchise, Sea Twist. At the settlement table, Moiso said she was made aware that Sea Twist had an existing account with the OCBOE; the board purchased pretzels from Sea Twist and resold them in the school cafeteria.

Moiso sought counsel from board Solicitor Michael Stanton and Michael Calbert, solicitor for New Jersey School Boards, who advised her that she was not violating the School Ethics Act.

Meanwhile, Sea Twist sold pretzels to the school board through December, 2011. In Wolf’s complaint, she alleges that Moiso voted to accept the payment in two of those months while voting to abstain in the other months.

In rendering the decision, Judge Tyner said Moiso did not vote to pay herself by accepting the Food Service Report.

“The Food Services Manager and the School Business Administrator were responsible for paying cafeteria vendors pursuant to Policy number 6640. The respondent, on two separate occasions, voted to accept a non-descript Food Service Report, which did not identify any vendors, nor did it identify any payments to any vendors. It merely identified the income of the cafeteria, the cost of the goods sold, the expenses of the cafeteria and the number of lunches sold. Under any circumstances, it is clear that the respondent did not vote to pay Sea Twist, LLC, of which she had an interest.”

Moiso said she was relieved.

“It’s been two, almost three years that this cloud has been hanging over me,” she said. “I am very happy that the School Ethics Commission took a vote. They could have just let it lapse, but they voted and that meant so much to me.”

To be in violation of the ethics act, Moiso said that she would have had to use her position on the board to benefit herself, or vote to pay herself, and she did neither.

Wolf could not be reached for comment.

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