Robert A. Berman of South Plainfield, the former Westfield School District business administrator, was given a year of probation Friday for accepting $13,000 in windows and doors from a contractor he recommended be hired by the district.
Berman, 55, received probation from state Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Donohue in Elizabeth. Berman pleaded guilty on Oct. 24 to a charge of third-degree conspiracy to make false representations for a government contract. He was required to forfeit his positions as business administrator and Westfield school board secretary. He was also ordered to pay a $6,000 penalty into the state’s Anti-Trust Revolving Fund for anti-trust enforcement efforts.
In pleading guilty, Berman admitted that he accepted the roughly $13,000 worth of window glass and doors installed at his home by Metropolitan Metal Window Co. from 2004 to 2008. He further admitted that, as business administrator, he issued written recommendations that the school board to appoint Metropolitan as the district’s “contractor of record” and he approved contracts knowing that they contained false information.
Berman was charged in March as a result of an investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, which also led to charges against a school district engineer and three contractors. The engineer and two of the contractors have pleaded guilty. Charges are pending against the third contractor, who is the co-owner of Metropolitan.
The school district engineer, Kenneth Disko, 48, of Mountainside, was the contracted engineer or engineer/architect on record for the Westfield, Tinton Falls and Scotch Plains-Fanwood school districts. Disko pleaded guilty on Oct. 12 before Judge Donohue to taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks from 2001 to 2010 on contracts he recommended that involved rigged bids and fraudulently inflated costs. His sentencing is scheduled for March 2. The state will recommend that Disko be sentenced to three to five years in state prison, pay a penalty of at least $50,000, and be barred from public contracts in New Jersey for 10 years.
Disko admitted that he knowingly prepared fraudulent quotes and estimates in connection with school district contracts, and directed contractors to inflate quotes and estimates. He also admitted that he submitted those quotes and estimates to the Westfield, Tinton Falls and Scotch Plains-Fanwood school districts and recommended approval of the fraudulently bid contracts in exchange for thousands of dollars in kickbacks from contractors.
On Dec. 1, two contractors pleaded guilty to rigging bids and inflating school contracts at the direction of Disko. Martin W. Starr, 45, of Cliffwood Beach, owner of Starr Contracting, and Stephen M. Gallagher, 51, of Cliffwood Beach, owner of East Commercial Construction, pleaded guilty to accusations charging them with third-degree false representations for a government contract before Superior Court Judge John S. Triarsi in Elizabeth.