Anyone familiar with the late Reb Shlomo Carlebach, the famous Jewish composer and singer, is aware that he managed to attract countless followers. His influence reached all corners of the Jewish world, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, and his tunes and hymns are used to this day by many congregations around the world to welcome the Jewish Sabbath every Friday evening.
With Carlebach’s eclectic approach of bringing Jews closer to Jewish practice through song, a myth and legend developed. It became accepted throughout much of the ultra-Orthodox world that Carlebach had himself kicked out of the prestigious Lakewood Yeshiva, formerly known as “Beth Medrash Govoha,” founded by Rabbi Aharon Kotler in 1943. It was also said that Carlebach had composed his inspiring but quite somber song “Lulaei Torascha” while sitting on the steps outside the yeshivah after his expulsion.
As poetic as the myth may be, Rabbi Kotler’s grandson, whose name is also Aharon, shattered it to pieces in a recent interview.
“Shlomo Carlebach was never kicked out of Lakewood,” said the young Rabbi Kotler, now president of the Lakewood Yeshiva. The yeshivah is an accredited institution of higher education in the state of New Jersey, and has approximately 7,000 students and 13,000 alumni, many of whom are leaders and builders of Jewish communities all over the world.
“Rav Aharon loved him,” said Rabbi Kotler. “He was, as we all know, exceptionally musically inclined … I can imagine that at some point in his life, his musical interests and drive exceeded his desire to learn inyeshivah.”
In fact, Reb Carlebach maintained a close connection with the elder Rabbi Kotler’s family.
“He played guitar at my parents’ sheva brochos [“Seven Blessings,” a Jewish wedding tradition],” said Rabbi Kotler. “They made a kumzits [evening gathering]. They closed the lights in the room, he sat on the floor.”
“One of the important things to remember is that Lakewood is not a life system,” he added. “Neither is kollel [an institute for full-time, advanced Talmud study] a life system for everybody, and certainly in Rav Aharon’s days people were in yeshiva for a number of years and then they eventually left. That was the norm. So I have never checked the enrollment records of Shlomo Carlebach, whether he stayed longer than the norm or shorter than the norm—but he certainly was not kicked out of Lakewood.”
Lakewood, a Test Case for Other Areas of New York and New Jersey, but Not Unique
The below article is being reposted without permission, in its entirety from New Jersey.com. We ask that you kindly click here to view the post in its original format as well as to avail yourselves of the advertising of that paper. We have not reposted the video which starts the article.
We note that NJ.com is a subscription service so, if asked to remove this post or any portion of it, we will do so. There is no intent to violate any copyrights. It should be noted that the author of the article is Mark Pfeiffer, a non-Orthodox Jew. He is assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers. The rest of the credits for the article can be found at the end of the post.
We make one single criticism of the article. Lakewood is mentioned as a unique situation, one not contemplated by our government’s founding fathers. We believe that Lakewood is not unique. A similar pattern can be seen throughout New York and New Jersey and likely in other parts of the country, like areas of Pennsylvania with students who attend the Lakewood Yeshiva. Insofar as Kiryas Joel is now the first religious town in the country, it also should be viewed in terms of a possible endpoint for Lakewood, except perhaps to the extent that Lakewood straddles a finer line between modernity and insularity.
Kiryas Joel or “Palm Tree, New York” has been for many years one of the poorest towns in the country. It is and will continue to represent one of the heaviest burdens on public resources throughout the United States.
Editor’s note, Part 9: Over the past nine days, NJ Advance Media has been taking a closer look at Lakewood, one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing and most complex towns. Lakewood is home to a huge Orthodox Jewish community and the rapid growth has engulfed the town, igniting tensions between the religious and secular societies on many levels.Each day, we have explored some of the major issues in the community, including the welfare fraud investigation, housing problems and the strains on the education system. Today, a look ahead.
Newcomers move in. Old-time residents leave. Stores open and close. Politics shift.
Such is Lakewood, fast growing and changing faster, dramatically transforming the Ocean County township that’s already eclipsed many New Jersey cities in population.
But where is it headed?
A pair of Orthodox teens share a ride on a bicycle on the sidewalk outside of Georgian Court University in Lakewood. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Lakewood found itself in the glare of unwanted attention this summer after 26 members of the Orthodox community were accused of lying about their income to collect more than $2 million in Medicaid and other public assistance.
Even before that, however, there has been turmoil and controversy, from a financial crisis brought on by school busing to private yeshivas, to unchecked growth and development that chokes the town daily with traffic, to basic questions about the separation of church and state.
Nearly 1,00 members of the Orthodox community listen during a meeting organized by the Vaad, Lakewood’s religious council. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
1) Why is this place different from all other places?
Marc Pfeiffer, the assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University and a former deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services, said what is happening in Lakewood is unique.
“It is effectively a religious community bound together by religious and social traditions that basically started small and has exponentially grown and is now large enough and powerful enough to assume control of the political process,” he said.
The effect of that, he said, “has created circumstances that arguably our laws and rules did not contemplate.”
A flyer that put out by Lakewood’s Vaad prior to the recent primary election, telling members of the Orthodox community how to vote. (Photo courtesy of Lakewood resident)
2) Can a religious community take over a town?
“There are lots of communities in New Jersey that you could call insular and who vote the same way. Newark is one that comes to mind,” noted Matthew Hale, who teaches political science and public affairs at Seton Hall University. “A Republican couldn’t get elected in Newark if he was standing on a corner handing out $1,000 bills. You could argue places up in Hunterdon and Warren counties are pretty insular with similar voting patterns also.”
The Orthodox community in Lakewood votes as a block and represents more than 50 percent of the population. It effectively controls the votes to hold sway over the township council and school board.
“The fact is, New Jersey is a machine politics state,” said Hale. “Little machines control votes and voting lines all over the state.”
Students of the East Ramapo School District hold a sign during the One Voice United Rally in Albany in 2013, protesting about the decade-long control of the East Ramapo public schools by the Orthodox community, which do not use the public schools but made deep cuts in teachers and programs. (Shannon DeCelle | AP file photo)
3) Have the issues in Lakewood played out anywhere else?
The East Ramapo Central School District in New York, 30 miles north of Manhattan, has gone through a similar transformation.
There, the Orthodox turn out to vote in strong numbers to defeat school budgets that could increase taxes, while electing members of the Orthodox community to the board. Parents of children in the public schools have accused the school board of making cuts in classroom education and extracurricular activities, to divert public resources to private Orthodox schools.
As in Lakewood, Ramapo residents opposed to the Orthodox control complain about the forces propelling what was a quiet New York suburb into a one of high-density living.
The fight in East Ramapo was documented on This American Life, the public radio show, which described a “volatile local political battle” that erupted after Hasidic residents, who have to pay local property taxes like everyone else—even if their kids did not attend the local schools— took control of the school board.
Elsewhere, there is similar anger over the influx of Orthodox families into parts of Toms River and Jackson Township in New Jersey, Bloomingburg in New York, and a group of Hasidic families moving into an African-American neighborhood in Jersey City.
Lakewood Mayor Raymond Coles, left, sitting alongside Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
4) What are the politics of Lakewood?
Lakewood swings Republican. Trump won with 74 percent of the vote. Christie won with 84 percent. The town is run by a five-member committee serving three year terms. Three are Orthodox Jews. There are three Republicans and two Democrats. All are white men.
But some believe the true power in town is the Vaad, a religious council of Orthodox men, headed by Rabbi Aaron Kotler, which serves as an unofficial advisory group to the community. They unofficially endorse candidates and push for town policies to benefit yeshivas, school owners and private developers.
Critics say Lakewood has outgrown the five-member town committee form of government, which appoints its own mayor and has at-large members. They say it needs a city government (like Newark and Jersey City), with a direct-elected mayor and wards, so one dominant ethnic group can’t dominate the government and smaller neighborhoods get representation.
Students get off the bus at the Yeshiva K’tana on 2nd St. in Lakewood. (David Gard | For NJ Advance Media)
5) What has been the impact of the Orthodox community on Lakewood?
The biggest hit has been on the school budgets. Under New Jersey law, communities are required to bus kids to private schools more than two miles away. But with 30,000 kids in private yeshivas in Lakewood, the costs of busing have grown out of control.
The state is giving $2.4 million a year to Lakewood until 2018 to solve the busing problem under legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie. In 2014, the state appointed a fiscal monitor to oversee Lakewood’s school district and its budget deficit. But the cost of courtesy busing is keeping the district in the red, say critics.
Questions have also been raised about whether local construction and housing ordinances have been ignored to make room for Orthodox growth, in a town where the government is also controlled by the religious community. Lakewood has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years.
6) If others in the township are being affected, why doesn’t the state step in?
New Jersey law does give the state the ability to go into a district like Lakewood, and it has appointed a monitor who has oversight and ultimate say on how the money is spent.
“The problem in New Jersey is even when you have the monitor, the politics are intense,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which advocates for the education rights of public school children.
With a board that is controlled by a constituency that supports private education, he said Lakewood should not have control of busing and special education expenditures. At the same time, he complained that the Christie administration has been “hands off” on Lakewood, even though the monitor is there.
“The monitor might exercise his authority, but he has to have the backing of the governor and legislature. There’s going to be political pushback,” he said.
The Lakewood Board of Education provides courtesy busing to private schools, but with 30,000 kids in those schools, costs have spiraled out of control. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
7) What, if anything, should the state do?
Sciarra said Lakewood needs to stop diverting funds to pay for an extraordinary number of children using private school transportation.
“The monitor should stop the subsidization of transportation out of the schools’ budget because it’s diverting funds out of public education,” he said.
If the state wants to subsidize private transportation, then the state should provide state funds, Sciarra suggested.
Michael Azzara, the fiscal monitor appointed by the state to oversee Lakewood’s finances, did not return calls to comment.
The next step, Sciarra said, depends on the political will of the next governor, noting that the state Supreme Court has made it clear over and over again that the state has the final say in insuring that children receive a “thorough and efficient” education.
“The state has the ultimate responsibility, which cannot be undermined by local school boards and the local political process,” he said. “In Trenton. That’s where the power lies.”
A new housing development off Broadway Ave. in the south part of the town. The town has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
8) How will Lakewood’s rapid development growth play out?
Pfeiffer said continued tensions among the communities, both within Lakewood and the surrounding municipalities, are likely.
“The outcomes of the current law enforcement investigations, school interventions, and land use concerns may contribute to new policies that respond to the pressures the yeshiva has introduced on the region,” he said. “Yeshiva leadership may feel it necessary, that despite its influence, to reconsider its growth plans as public resistance to continued growth may come at too great a disruption to the region’s civic environment and risk to the institution’s reputation.”
That said, he said it seems clear that continued, unabated growth will create new challenges for the region that will continue to stress political, civic, economic, and cultural institutions and systems, “the outcomes of which cannot be predicted today.”
In the hallways of Beth Medrash Govoha. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
9) How does the Orthodox community see the future in Lakewood?
What brings so many Orthodox families to Lakewood is Beth Medrash Govoha, which opened with 15 students in 1943 and has grown into one of the biggest yeshivas in the world, in part because of its distinctive teaching style.
Rabbi Kotler, president of the yeshiva, sees parallels to the Orthodox presence in Lakewood and to Princeton University.
“We kind of watch what they do and how they do that. What has really changed for us here in Lakewood, unlike Princeton, is that so many of our alumni and their families are living in Lakewood and setting up their businesses here,” he said. “Lakewood kind of became a destination in and of its own way.”
(Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
10) Where is the next Lakewood?
While many see parallels of Lakewood in Rockland County’s East Ramapo, where many of the same issues have played out in recent years, the community in Lakewood is expanding beyond the town’s borders.
People in Toms River, Jackson, Howell and Brick have complained about getting harassed by Orthodox real estate brokers who knock on their doors and encourage them to sell their houses because Haredi Jews are moving in. Several towns have “no-knock” ordinances because of it.
Further to the north in Mahwah, meanwhile, residents are fighting the installation of an “eruv.” A physical line that is often a line or thin piping along utility poles, an eruv symbolically extends the private domain of Orthodox households into public areas, allowing activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath, such as pushing a baby carriage.
Comments on a petition circulating on-line, some overtly anti-Semitic, suggest the opposition is not so much to the presence of the eruv, but that Mahwah would be transformed into another Orthodox-dominated community, such as nearby Monsey, N.Y.
Staff writer Kelly Heyboer contributed to this report.
“Agudath Israel’s New Jersey Director told Hamodia that the recent revelations are yet another step in strengthening accusations of a concerted effort to block Orthodox growth in Jackson. “These incidents are further proof of the nefarious intentions of those sitting in the government of Jackson,” he said. “It shows a deep rooted problem that they are pursuing plans to keep Jews out and to have zoning and planning board members at a meeting on how to prevent a Jewish development from being built speaks volumes. Remember also, that these are positions appointed by the mayor and council to steer their agendas.”
– Three members of Jackson Township boards dealing with development have tendered their resignations, following the release of recordings of their attendance at a meeting aimed at stopping the construction of a housing project geared towards Orthodox Jews. Controversy began after an anonymous leak to local officials and media surfaced that Richard Egan, who was a member of Jackson’s Planning Board, and Sheldon Hofstein and John Sullivan who served on its Zoning Board, were present at what was labeled as the town’s inaugural CUPON meeting. CUPON (Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods) has been active in New York’s Rockland County for some time, largely focusing on efforts to oppose the growth of the Orthodox community there.
Three members of Jackson Township boards dealing with development have tendered their resignations, following the release of recordings of their attendance at a meeting aimed at stopping the construction of a housing project geared towards Orthodox Jews.
Controversy began after an anonymous leak to local officials and media surfaced that Richard Egan, who was a member of Jackson’s Planning Board, and Sheldon Hofstein and Joseph Sullivan who served on its Zoning Board, were present at what was labeled as the town’s inaugural CUPON meeting. CUPON (Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods) has been active in New York’s Rockland County for some time, largely focusing on efforts to oppose the growth of the Orthodox community there.
The meeting was held two weeks ago at Jackson’s Miller Road Fire House and was reportedly attended by some 28 residents. Included on its written agenda was discussion of an upcoming Planning Board application for Jackson Trails, a development for more than 460 homes and a shul in an area of the town near the border with Manchester Township, far from the area of Jackson that borders Lakewood, and which is already home to several hundred Orthodox families.
Very brief clips of a recording of the meeting, released through the Lakewood Scoop, feature the three men acknowledging that their presence at the gathering must be kept secret.
“We’re not supposed to be here,” Mr. Hofstein said. “Nobody saw us.”
“We didn’t sign in, we’re neutral like invisible,” said Mr. Egan.
“We weren’t here,” said Mr. Sullivan.
A source who has listened to the entire audio recording but requested anonymity, told Hamodia that all three took an active part in conversations strategizing to block Jackson Trails’ application.
The planning meeting held four days later was attended by some 175 residents. Just before it commenced, Gregory McGuckin, who serves as an attorney for Jackson as well as being its assemblyman, approached Mr. Egan and asked that he recuse himself from taking part in the meeting.
Presumably under pressure from town officials that their continued participation would throw a further pall over the town’s zoning and planning decisions, Mr. Egan and Mr. Sullivan submitted their resignations this past Friday, and Mr. Hofstein added his on Monday.
Robert Nixon, who serves as president of Jackson’s Town Council told Hamodia that he welcomed the resignations.
“Council was surprised and disappointed at the allegations made recently against members of our Planning and Zoning Boards and we support their decision to step down,” he said. “The focus of the Zoning and Planning Boards have always been, and must only be, on the law governing land use and Jackson’s Master Plan.”
Zoning Board appointments are made by the town council, and those to the Planning Board are made by the town’s Mayor, Michael Reina.
Jackson has struggled to keep its town boards staffed in recent years, following a series of scandals. Robert Burrows, a former Zoning Board member, has been the author of several online anti-Semitic tirades. In 2017, Larry Schuster was forced to resign after anti-Semitic and other offensive comments he made online were discovered, only weeks after Anthony Marano was forced from the board over an arrest for possession of illicit materials and resisting arrest.
At the time, members of the council called for more rigorous background checks to be made before admitting applicants to serve on town boards.
The recent resignations could complicate Jackson’s ongoing legal woes as well. In 2017, the town was sued by the Agudath Israel of America, which claimed that ordinances that banned the construction of new schools and eruvinwere motivated by bias against the Orthodox community.
Officials had entered into arbitration, but negotiations stalled and a trove of emails revealed by a FOIL request between the mayor and council members seemed to reveal that talks were little more than a stalling tactic. The cases are currently moving forward.
Prior to the Agudah’s action, Jackson had been sued by Oros Bais Yaakov over the township’s denial of its application to build.
Six Hudson Valley residents including a teacher were arrested following an undercover sting to catch alleged child predators.
On Thursday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo announced the arrests of 16 alleged child predators in “Operation Home Alone,” a multi-agency undercover operation targeting men who allegedly were using social media in an attempt to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity.
The underage children were, in fact, undercover officers. Most of the men were arrested when they arrived at a home in New Jersey where they allegedly expected to find a teen home alone. Instead, they found law enforcement officers prepared to arrest them and process any evidence seized, police say.
Those arrested include a New Jersey police officer, a Bronx high school teacher, drivers for two rideshare companies, a minister, a finance lead for an internet service provider, a bank branch office manager, a barbershop owner, a dental hygienist, two takeout food deliverymen and others, according to New Jersey State Police.
“The 16 men we arrested allegedly used social media to stalk victims they believed were vulnerable children who could be sexually exploited. Fortunately, their victims were really undercover officers prepared to put them in handcuffs,” Grewal said. “Parents need to know that the profiles of underage girls and boys we posted on social media to catch these offenders could easily have been profiles of their own children, who might also be targeted by predators on chat apps and popular gaming sites. Our message to child predators is law enforcement is working overtime to find you and arrest you.”
The arrests were made over a five-day period from April 11 through April 15. Seven men traveled to the undercover house from New York State, including six who live in the Hudson Valley. Below are the six from the local area who were arrested
Kevin Roth, 26, Nanuet: Roth a teacher in the Bronx is accused of trying to meet a 14-year-old boy. He was charged with luring and attempted sexual assault on a minor.
When Gov. Phil Murphy proposed his 2020 budget last week it revealed Lakewood School District would get a massive 63 percent hike in state funding, by far the largest of any district in the state.
But what state officials didn’t make clear is that the additional $14.9 million proposed for Lakewood is special treatment for the controversial district that isn’t called for in the state’s school funding formula.
An NJ Advance Media analysis of state data found Murphy’s administration wants to give Lakewood more money than the district technically qualifies for, while slashing funding to nearly 200 other districts. The state pumped extra money into Lakewood’s preliminary funding for special education and transportation without increasing that aid for most other districts. And it proposed giving millions in new taxpayer money to a district long criticized for enormous public costs tied to private school students, primarily in Jewish yeshivas.
As much as the extra money might be necessary in cash-starved Lakewood, which has relied on state loans to buoy its local school budget, the way Murphy’s administration quietly added it to the state’s budget raised concerns.
“The (state) really needs to explain publicly what’s going on here,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, a nonprofit that closely monitors school funding. “I would hope that the Legislature examines this in detail and gets answers.”
MARIJUANA COVERAGE IN YESHIVA WORLD NEWS, SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT OUR THEORY…
Why would the Yeshiva World News be interested in the Legalization of Marijuana in New Jersey unless there were something to be gained by the community it covers? It would make sense if they know who will be joining the commission in New Jersey (see in red below). It would make more sense if they had an inside track into the course legalization is taking. It however would be inconsistent, simply put, with the rest of their coverage.
Over the last few days, we have OPINED that New York is going to be quick to legalize marijuana and the ultra-Orthodox, in particular the Satmar community, are simply counting the minutes. We believe the publication of articles like the one below, dated November 22, 2018, speaks volumes to the interest of the community.
New Jersey, according to sources close to us, already has an active secondary market for cannabis licenses and the current holders for medical marijuana purposes are buying and selling into and out of their corporate structures on a regular basis. New York has much to be gained if the State beats NJ to the punch, as do those already invested in the business. It is like investing in the futures market, particularly if you have inside information into the future.
New Jersey lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled their latest proposal to legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 and over.
A joint Democrat-led Assembly and Senate committee is expected to discuss the measures Monday.
It’s the latest draft in a long-running effort to legalize recreational cannabis in New Jersey, where despite support from Democratic leaders, including Gov. Phil Murphy, the effort has stalled.
The measure allows for legalizing an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older — similar to previous drafts.
Changes in the new bill include a 12 percent tax rate on cannabis. Previous version of the bill included a phased-in rate that climbed from 7 percent to 25 percent.
The 12 percent rate includes the 6.625 percent sales tax, according to the draft released Wednesday. The proposal also permits local governments to apply up to a 2 percent tax on cannabis.
The measure also sets up a five-person cannabis commission charged with regulating the substance.
The members would be full time and receive a $125,000 per year salary, while the chairman would get up to $141,000 annually.
The members would serve for five-year terms and would be appointed by the governor, with approval from the state Senate. Two members would be appointed on the recommendation of the Senate president and Assembly speaker.
TOP INVESTIGATOR FIRED AFTER NJ CUT $2.6M DEALS WITH LAKEWOOD CHEATS
One of the lead investigators into the prevalent welfare fraud in Lakewood and Ocean County was fired on the same day that officials gave Medicaid cheats as the deadline to turn themselves in.
Andrew Poulos, the former supervising investigator with the Office of the State Comptroller’s Medicaid Fraud Division, was terminated from his $95,300 job on Dec. 12 after six years, according to employment records obtained by New Jersey 101.5.
This is the third law enforcement or government position Poulos has left after questions were raised about his methods, according to legal documents and published reports.
State Comptroller Philip J. Degnan last week acknowledged that the deals ran against his public pronouncements that the people granted immunity from prosecution would be required to pay back all their ill-gotten gains. Degnan, nevertheless, defended the program, saying that the $2.25 million that the state did get back was more than his office had ever been able to recover.
Degnan this week said that the rogue staffer was removed from his position but would not name him or say whether he had been fired.
Degnan’s office on Tuesday confirmed that Poulos had been fired Dec. 12 but would not explain why, describing it as a “discontinuation of an unclassified appointment” of an at-will hire.
Poulos did not return several calls and emails requesting comment Tuesday.
From the time the arrests started in June until the end of September, the number of Medicaid recipients in Ocean County has decreased by 2,565,” he said in the October 2017 email to officials in the FBI, Justice Department, Social Security Administration, the State Treasury and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
“In a year-to-year comparison of Ocean County numbers, a consistent drop in the number of recipients has not occurred like this. With 2,565 less recipients in the program, it is an annual cost savings of approximately $12 million,” he wrote.
“Add in the impact of the criminal cases and the voluntary disclosure program that are ongoing, the operation has had an incredible impact, despite what the media prints. You should be extremely proud of the work you and your teams put into the operation.”
His report was released a day after the Asbury Park Press revealed that a Lakewood school board member was among those granted amnesty and who paid back just half of what he owed despite having purchased a $500,000 home.
Documents obtained this year by Ocean County Politics revealed that the investigation into the pervasive welfare fraud in Lakewood began in 2015. The probe by the Comptroller’s Office, which is tasked with investigating Medicaid fraud, involved reviewing private school tuition and bank accounts of dozens of families. Investigators said that the average income reported by these families was just over $27,300 even though their actual income was, on average, more than $94,000.
Last year, county and federal authorities charged 26 township residents with cheating multiple public assistance programs out of more than $2 million.
ot long after the arrests, the Comptroller’s Office announced the Ocean County Recipient Voluntary Disclosure Program, which allowed residents in the county to self-report their accidental or intentional applications for government assistance that they were not entitled to. In exchange for not facing criminal charges, the applicants were supposed to repay what they took and stay off Medicaid for a year.
The program was criticized by people who felt that authorities were coddling lawbreakers and showing special favor to Lakewood’s predominant Orthodox Jewish community.
The amnesty program was open to anyone who had not already been charged with defrauding Medicaid. Degnan and prosecutors insisted that the program should not be called “amnesty” because the participants could still be prosecuted by state and federal tax authorities.
The program was started on Sept. 12, 2017, and was open for enrollment until Dec. 12, the same day Poulos was fired.
Degnan’s report noted that there were 81 settlements reached as part of the program, which resulted in 159 people being removed from Medicaid and more than $2 million being recovered.
In his report, Degnan admitted there were some “flaws and mistakes” in the program. While he did not name the person, Degnan said one employee in his office had “engaged in negotiations with counsel for applicants that resulted in settlements for less than the full damages amount.”
“This employee circumvented the established application process and safeguards and engaged in direct communication with applicants’ attorneys,” Degnan’s report said. “This conduct was contrary to the published terms of the Program and to my public statements regarding the OCRVDP.”
Degnan’s report does not say that the employee was fired, only that “appropriate steps were taken to end that practice.”
Poulos previously worked for the Army as a civilian commander of the Investigations Division at the former Fort Monmouth. He was stripped of his security clearance in 2011 after the U.S. Marshals Service complained to the Army about him using fake credentials to expose security flaws at military bases and federal courthouses in New Jersey, the Washington Post reported in 2011.
Although his Army superiors heaped praise on his work, the U.S. Marshals, which oversees federal building security, were not pleased, according to the Washington Post.
Last year, a federal court dismissed a lawsuit Poulos filed in 2013 against the New Castle, Delaware, police department, where he had previously worked. Poulos said New Castle police officials released his confidential employee files to federal investigators.
Poulos resigned from New Castle in 2003 after facing two internal investigations, his lawsuit said. The lawsuit said New Castle officials told federal agents that one of the investigations was for lying about a suspect trying to run him over with a vehicle. Poulos, however, said the investigation did not sustain any misconduct charges against him.