Board of Education members in Brick said they have thought long and hard about reinstating suspended Superintendent Walter Uszenski, but the possibility of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office seeking a third indictment against him has kept them from considering the option.
Uszenski, in February, had an indictment against him thrown out by Superior Court Judge Patricia Roe, after it was revealed that prosecutors excluded evidence that may have exonerated him from their grand jury presentation. Uszenski is accused of providing day care services to his grandchild when the child was not eligible for them, however it came to light during court proceedings that the child previously had been eligible for such services before Uszenski was ever hired in the Brick school district.
With no indictment against him, the Board of Education could legally reinstate Uszenski, as the Lacey Township board did when its former superintendent, Sandra Brower, had an indictment against her dismissed. However the Brick board has refrained from doing so because Uszenski’s attorney has said in press interviews that that the prosecutor’s office intends to seek another indictment. Earlier this week, Shorebeat exclusively broke the news that Uszenski has filed paperwork stating his intention to file a $60 million lawsuit against the school district, Brick municipal government and the prosecutor’s office.
“It is something that is weighing heavily on our minds,” school board vice president Stephanie Wohlrab said, responding to questions on the subject from members of the public Thursday night at a board meeting.
Wohlrab said the board does not want to “disrupt” the district by having Uszenski return, only to have another indictment handed up.
“When his own attorney is expecting an indictment, why would we disrupt the district like that – to bring him in and then send him out again,” Wohlrab said.
“I’m looking for the easiest and cheapest path out of this situation,” said resident Vic Fanelli. “The impression we get is that you’re sitting on your hands right now, waiting to see what happens.”
George Scott, another resident, said bringing Uszenski back could prove to be the best option, given the potential litigation.
“I’m trying to have the compensatory [damage] amount reduced by having him reinstated because he has a valid contract,” said Scott.
Uszenski’s contract runs through the 2017-18 school year. Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella’s contract runs through June 30, 2017, however he is eligible to be retained until Feb. 2018, when he reaches a two-year state-imposed deadline for interim superintendents.
“It’s a difficult decision to make,” Wohlrab admitted. “We don’t have all the information to make the kind of decision you want.”