Mo Hill, School Board Political Play to Bring Norcross, Buckalew Firm to the School Insurance Table is Eerily Similar to Ritacco Scandal


TOMS RIVER, NJ – Being hailed behind the scenes of a game-changing shared service agreement that would save Toms River taxpayers billions, cut taxes and put a chicken in every pot, a plan being hatched by Toms River Mayor Mo Hill and Toms River School Board politicians will do nothing more than usher in a new level of Ritacco era pay to play politics for insurance contracts.

The plan, according to town hall insiders within Hill’s close circle is exploring the possibility of the school board hiring Toms River insurance broker Connor, Strong & Buckalew…and Norcross to have the same insurance provider across the board, hence, shared services.

Millions on the table for the taking

When you peel back the layers of the onion, here’s what you will find.

Connor, Strong and Buckalew is an extremely politically active firm that is the center of a state investigation over how they received over $11 BILLION in tax credits, allegedly exploiting the weakness of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Governor Phil Murphy launched an investigation into those tax credits and the firm sued the state…and lost, to block that investigation.

Here are the players in the game:

George Norcross, partner, the South Jersey Democrat political boss and king maker.

Joe Buckalew, partner, former Ocean County GOP Boss and defacto GOP boss in Chairman Holman’s perpetual absence.

Joe Nardini, local deal maker, ally of Hill and Buckalew.

Mo Hill, the deal maker.

Smells like the Ritacco Scandal All Over Again

The plan will bring tens of millions of dollars of school board health insurance costs under Hill’s preferred vendor, his political mentor, Joseph Buckalew.

The plan is also reminiscent of the Ritacco scandal where Francis Gartland, an insurance broker was brought into the Toms River School Board and we all know how that story ended.

If you don’t remember, here’s how the whole thing played out:

A New Jersey insurance broker and the former mayor of Toms River, N.J. Carmine Inteso, were each sentenced today for offenses arising from separate schemes involving officials of Toms River and the former insurance broker for the Toms River Regional School District Francis X. Gartland, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Deja Vu

In the end, everyone lost.

Mayor Inteso was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of house arrest for evading his income tax obligations. Inteso, who was arrested in July 2012 after returning from Afghanistan where he had been working as a contractor, pleaded guilty in December 2012 before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano to one count of tax evasion.

Frank Cotroneo, 63, of Chester, N.J., an insurance broker with an office in Morristown, N.J., was sentenced to 37 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $12.4 million in restitution to the Toms River School District and in forfeiture to the United States.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Ritacco was sentenced to prison on bribery charges.

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

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