A state panel has dismissed ethics charges filed against a Brick Township Board of Education member.
The charges were filed in August by George Scott, a resident, against board member Michael Conti, who at the time was running for a seat on the township council. Conti, Scott alleged, violated the state’s school ethics law by writing mortgages for district employees, including Interim Superintendent Richard Caldes.
The state School Ethics Commission dismissed the charges, according to documents released this week, for numerous reasons, including the fact that Conti’s father – not Conti – owns the company which wrote the mortgages. As defined under the state ethics statute, family member conflicts only arise when a spouse or dependent child living in the same household as a board member receives income stemming from a board member’s activity. Additionally, the commission found, Conti makes no commissions on the mortgages he writes, and the loans were quickly sold to an investor after origination, at which point the business relationship between Conti and his clients was terminated.
The commission found that since the business relationship with Caldes was terminated before he was ever voted in as interim superintendent, Conti would not have had to abstain on voting for his appointment.
“The mortgage business is not intrinsically in substantial conflict with [Conti’s] board duties, as these activities are not linked, and the company does not transact any business with the board,” Commissioner Chair Robert W. Bender wrote in his decision.
Likewise, the commission found that Conti, in writing mortgages for about 15 district employees besides Caldes, similarly did not violate ethics rules. The commission said it found no evidence that Conti specifically advertised his services to school employees or used his position to solicit business. Conti conducted business “in the normal course of his profession,” Bender wrote, with members of the public who “happen to be employees of the district.”
Conti was represented by the Gilmore and Monahan law firm of Toms River. Scott filed the complaint himself.
“Obviously I’m very pleased with their decision,” Conti told Shorebeat. “I take an immense amount of pride in my work, both professionally and volunteer. I hold myself to a high ethical standard and to have that under attack and made a focal point of campaign literature was disappointing to say the least.”
Conti, who ran as a Republican candidate for the council, was unsuccessful. Conti’s term on the board expires Dec. 31.
“I’m happy that this is resolved and behind me,” he said. “I am proud of my board service and honored that, three years ago, the residents of Brick Township selected me to represent them.”