Superintendent: More 'Checks and Balances' Since Theft At Hazlet School District

Superintendent Bernard Bragen explains how procedures at the board office have changed since the discovery of Michele Pumilia's scheme.

Superintendent Bernard Bragen said the Hazlet school district has taken measures to detect malfeasance. Patch File photo
Superintendent Bernard Bragen said the Hazlet school district has taken measures to detect malfeasance. Patch File photo
Since the discovery of the theft of nearly $236,242 from the Hazlet Township School District by former Transportation Manager Michele Pumilia, Schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen says changes have been made at the board offices located at Raritan High School.

"We've implemented several checks and balances in the business and transportation offices, including having more than one person oversee the transportation routes," Bragen said. 

Other improvements include connecting every registered student to a bus route and producing a monthly transportation report for the Board of Education Finance Committee to review. 

Pumilia was employed as the Transportation Manager for the Hazlet Township School District from July 2005 through August 2008. She admitted to creating a scheme to authorize payments to fictitious bus companies for transportation services that were never provided to the districts. The money went into bank accounts jointly controlled by her and her mother. 

The theft was discovered by state investigators during an investigation at Piscataway School District where was employed as the Supervisor of Transportation from September 2008 through June 2012. There, she admitted to stealing $336,570. 

The theft was not detected through the Hazlet School District's annual audits, said Bragen. The school district no longer uses the same auditing firm, having switched for reasons unrelated to the theft case. 

"This was a savvy employee," said Bragen, who became Superintendent in 2011 after serving as Assistant Superintendent beginning in 2007. "It was pretty elaborate."

The Hazlet School District was reimbursed for the stolen money last year through its own insurance policy, said Bragen. But according to the Office of the Attorney General, Pumilia is responsible for making full restitution of $572,812 and forfeit all public pension and retirement benefits to the insurance company.  She is also permanently barred from public employment and will serve five years in state prison without parole. 

"I'm glad that justice prevailed and that the employee who conducted acts of malfeasance is brought to justice in accordance with the law," said Bragen. 


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