A grand jury has indicted the former Wall school superintendent on charges that include official misconduct, theft by deception, money laundering, mortgage fraud and tampering with records.
According to a news release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, James F. Habel, 56, of Dunedin, Fla., who used to live in Point Pleasant Beach, fraudulently obtained vacation time payouts and stole electronic equipment that belonged to the district.
He also tried to hide his crimes, by directing district employees to destroy records and telling the information technology director to delete emails, the news release said. The IT director ignored that directive, according to the news release.
A former Wall assistant superintendent, Sandra Brower, was indicted earlier this year, charged with failing to report allegations that a teacher improperly touched a child. Officials have said that there was no truth to those allegations, but school officials were obligated to report them to police.
Habel is also now charged with official misconduct, conspiracy and obstruction in that case too, the news release said.
According to the indictment that alleges financial crimes:
Habel was the superintendent from March 2003 until June 2012, and his salary ranged from $145,000 to $225,000.
He also got at least 25 vacation days, five personal days and five bonus days a year, as well as unlimited use of a 2005 Yukon Denali.
He was allowed to cash in unused vacation days, and transfer the proceeds to tax-sheltered annuity accounts. The district also made contributions to those accounts each year.
The misconduct began in October 2003, some seven months after he got the job.
He routinely took days off, often on Mondays and Fridays, but failed to notify the district of his absences, so those vacation days were never deducted from his vacation time balance. During his nine years in the district, he failed to report 110 absences, starting with five days he spent in Florida in October 2003.
The last such days he took off were on Dec. 20, 21, and 22 of 2011, when he was actually in Virginia and Florida.
He was paid about $93,000 for those 110 vacation days.
In December 2011, he told the IT director to delete from the district’s server emails from some school board members and emails from an airline that Habel frequently used to travel to Florida. The IT director did not delete the emails.
That month Habel also shredded, removed or destroyed all of his office files.
After he left the district, he failed to return a Dell desktop, a flat-panel monitor, a Dell laptop, a Motorola Droid cell phone and an Apple iPad, worth a total of $8,771. He ignored district employee’s repeated attempts to retrieve that equipment.