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Former Superintendent's Home Raided By Prosecutor's Office

James F. Habel's Point Pleasant Borough home raided this morning

Investigators from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Thursday morning raided the Point Pleasant home of former Wall Township Superintendent of Schools James F. Habel.

Acting Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni was tight-lipped about the raid, saying only that the office "conducted an investigative action'' at Habel's residence.

Gramiccioni did not say what investigators were looking for or what was taken from Habel's home at 1614 Blue Heron Court in the raid, which began at  6:30 a.m.

Attempts to reach Habel were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon.

Habel took the helm of the Wall School district beginning in 2003. Habel received a base salary of $220,048 in 2011, plus extensive benefits.

The retirement payout for the former superintendent was a topic , where board President John Tavis said Habel's retirement payout would cost the district more than $408,800 for unused sick and vacation time in accordance with a contract that also gives him lifetime health insurance.

The former superintendent, Tavis said, also is entitled to 363 days of accrued vacation time, because Habel in 11 years never used his vacation days. At the time of the contract, there was no cap on the amount of payout or number of days that could accrue.

Gramiccioni did not say if Thursday's raid was related to Habel's contract.

Current Superintendent of Schools Daniel Simon said investigators from the Prosecutor's Office were recently combing through records at the Board of Education office.

Simon declined further comment.

, citing an undisclosed medical problem. The superintendent used some of that accrued sick time beginning in January. He did not return to the district.

Habel, who maintains a home in Florida and whose wife is a full-time Florida resident, expressed "great interest" in a superintendent job in the Sunshine State in 2008, according to a letter he wrote to the Pinellas County School Board, located in Largo, Fla.

In it, Habel says he has been a part-time resident of Pinellas County since 1987 and has an interest in maintaining good schools there.

"I have a vested, long-term commitment to Pinellas County and the future of our school system,'' he said in the letter, which is attached to this story.

Habel's pay was cited in a 2006 New Jersey Commission of Investigation report titled, "TAXPAYERS BEWARE — What You Don’t Know Can Cost You: An Inquiry Into Questionable and Hidden Compensation for Public School Administrators."

In it, the commission found that school districts, legally, can pay employees in a tax-free annuity if the employee agrees to take a reduction in salary. The legal practice, however, appears "in many instances to have been awarded as adjuncts to base salaries rather than in place of corresponding salary reductions as required by the enabling statute."

The report cites a payment of $69,450 into an annuity made to Habel during the 2003-04 school year. 

The report cites a practice it calls  "questionable'' in regard to total compensation for administrators. For instance, Habel's reported salary to the state Department of Education in 2004-05 was $159,000. His actual compensation — including benefits and perks — was $215,780, a difference of $56,780 or 35.7 percent, the report says.

"The official DOE listing provides no clue that many top administrators receive payments for unused leave, annuities, pension contribution reimbursements and other forms of remuneration well beyond the scope of regular paychecks,'' the report says.

Duke September 15, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Does anybody know the answer to this question? Do administrators have to take vacation days when the district is closed,for example...Xmas break, winter break, spring break? Or do they have off as well? Curious!! Thanks.
Duke September 15, 2012 at 02:07 AM
If they do have off, why in the heck would they get more than 10 to 15 vacation days? And better yet...why would they be able to keep unused days? Everywhere else it is use it or lose it...that is the way it is for me. And they make as much if not more than I do. WTF!!
Saddened September 15, 2012 at 04:35 AM
I think you are all forgetting that the man got off for Teachers Convention, Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, February break, and all the other holiday days the educators and administrators get. Why would he possibly need to use his vacation days? I'm not sure why he needed to be given vacation days on top of all the other days he got off for breaks and holidays, but that was the contract he was given. Also, why doesn't everyone stop condemning this man before you even know what he's being charged with. I don't know the man or much about him, so my comments are not meant to support him or not support him, but last time I checked, in this Country, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Some of you people are already burning him at the stake, and you don't even know what he's being accused of. Your attacks are vicious!
Saddened September 15, 2012 at 05:02 AM
Tom Coyle, if your "personal agenda" - as you put it - truly "ended when Mrs. Cannon resigned", then why would you feel the need to link her to a public discussion about a very lengthy article in which she wasn't mentioned at all? I don't know who you are, but I do know that you have no idea what you are talking about. You're like those hecklers who sit on the sidelines bashing the people that are trying to make a difference. Your comments are mean, angry, and without basis.
AH September 15, 2012 at 09:17 AM
Maybe because they really know what this man is capable of and how he operates. Maybe because they had dealings with him and know he is an arrogant slime that got away with crap he should not have. Maybe he treated many unfairly when he was the ruler with the iron fist.
Resident September 15, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Gary G. I am already wondering about the new guy. I have gotten the run around from the HS principal on an issue and have taken it to the new soperintentents office and I have not recieived one response in a week. I am starting to think he may be in Florida too!
Kathy Dweck September 15, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Here we go! Once again you just spew vile uncalled for commentary.
Really? September 15, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Saddened. Yes in this country you are assumed innocent until proven otherwise, but the fact is the Prosecutors office felt they had just cause to go to his house to try to find any information that might be there. He could have wiped his computer clean, but he couldn't wipe out airline records, ez pass records, phone records etc. There's very few places to hide these days. Mr. Habel also made the closing of an elementary school a major part of his agenda. The reported savings at the time was one million dollars, so in your showing of empathy for him, what about the 200 children he tried to take a school away from? There are some things that strike a raw nerve in people and rightfully so. Since 2007 there has been no talking to him. He had the deck stacked in his favor with the BOE. There are valid questions that the people are entitled answers to and now his time has come to answer those questions. I wish you were more familiar with the man and his History. Perhaps then, you would have a better understanding.
Duke September 15, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I have been doing some investigative reading on state websites...not easy by the way...very confusing. The way it reads...Superintendants, Business Andministrators and Asst Sups have their own separate contracts and have very specific guidelines. Hence salary, vacation and sick day accruel, and some specifics on benefits in general. These were put into place by Christie about three years ago in response to the recent economy meltdown and the big payouts when top administrators leave. Remember the Keyport or Hazlet Super. That event started the reforms. What I believe to understand, these new rules do not apply to other Administrators,I.e. Principals, Asst Principals, and Supervisors. These admin have their own Union and are protected by their negotiated contracts. Not sure, but I believe they are being negotiated right now...the teachers as well. The current BOE needs to be transparent with these contracts with the tax layers and make sure they are not able to carry over vacation and sick days to be paid out at a later date. Ridiculous!! This practice has to stop. Period!!
Duke September 16, 2012 at 03:52 AM
As we can all see now...these people work behind close doors. None of these people want to talk in the open. The less people involved in their contracts the better. The tax payees need to take control back. Wolves in sheep clothing. I agree with Gee...they are all for themselves, not the kids. Wall has gone down hill. The town sure needs leadership. Anne Marie conte was a BOE member when Hable got that contract. I'll bet she is hanging low right now.
Kathy Dweck September 16, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Speculation. Ugh. I can not imagine WORKING in a volunteer postion as a BOE memember to be question on my Ethics!
Wise Owl September 16, 2012 at 02:32 PM
@gee, would one of them have been his former assistant superintendent who now runs her own district to the south?
Really? September 16, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Todd Luttman too. I believe the actual signees of the contracts were Tony LoCastro for the first, and Doug Wild for the second. Guess we have to OPRA that to be sure.
D September 16, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Wall Township needs to be investigated like all the other districts should be. This corruption has become a common practice. I am tired of everyone saying the same thing. Politics and corruption are happening everywhere. It is like to bad, just except it because nothing is going to change. Why? Why can't it change. How come we can get individuals to do what is right.
CorruptWall September 18, 2012 at 01:29 PM
He gets away with it because he pretends to go on Professional Development Workshops. He never documents that he attended and/or provided a certificate of attendance from the workshop. We should look at his frequent flier miles with Spirit airlines and see how many times he took off to go to Florida. Or maybe we should find his real contract - the one he took out of his file and hid. Not the fake one he created to submit to the County Supers Office. He is a crook and I hope he gets what he deserves. What comes around goes around - Karma!
HTHSenior September 18, 2012 at 07:31 PM
As I have spent time reading all these comments, I felt like I should add one too. I am a senior who lives in Wall, with a brother at WIS and a sister at MAST. I go to High Tech and have spent the last three years with Mr. Simon. Wall could not have chosen a better person to be their new superintendent. He is kind and smart and he actually cares about the students. I remember him walking through the halls between classes, greeting everyone - students and teachers alike - by name. At the end of last year, when we found out that he was leaving to come to Wall, we literally all cried. The teachers, the students, the parents - we were all going to miss his enthusiasm and his passion for his job. If you don't believe it, look at High Tech's records from the years he was our principal - #1 in the state, #1 in the country for math and science. The students are incredibly smart but it takes a special type of person to encourage such excellent programs in our schools. It makes me sad to see all the suspicion that has fallen on Mr. Simon's shoulders because of who preceded him. Give him a chance to try and get Wall out of this hole we have dug ourselves into, but realize it WILL take a long time. Just consider yourselves lucky to have gotten someone who is willing to take on such a big challenge.
Leave it on the Field September 18, 2012 at 08:42 PM
HTHSenior - thanks for sharing a few of Mr. Simon's achievements. I agree with you that he is highly respected by many people across our NJ. Unfortunately, if you look up the word "Superintendent" in the dictionary the definition has been replaced with the disgraceful mugshot of Michael Ritacco. Mr. Simon's entire profession is under attack in NJ because of the corrupt actions of Tom's River's high profile former superintendent, last week's raid on Dr. Habel's home and because of the hyper-focus the public now has on superintendent salaries, health & welfare benefits, pensions & separation payouts. BOEs approve these contracts which are funded by taxpayers, so taxpayers everywhere are demanding higher accountability. Disgusted parents & taxpayers in Wall are a little tense this week because no one hires a criminal defense attorney to a settle a vacation day dispute. Mr. Simon & the fact he was #1 in state & county for math & science is probably the superintendent the public should be applauding. Don't worry. If your assessment of Mr. Simon is correct, he won't be unfairly swept up into the Habel situation for very long. As people vent openly, Mr. Simon's actions & solutions inside these challenges will set him apart from those before him who put their own interests in front of kids. Your note above restored that kind of confidence today. Thank you.
Tom Coyle September 19, 2012 at 12:52 AM
HTHSenior. I agree with Leave It. The heart of Wall is behind Mr. Simon 100%. Anyone dogging him on these posts is either a Habel flunkie or an education basher. We have, and continue to, welcome Mr. Simon into our community with open arms. We look forward to the long, steady climb back to excellence that we are fully confident he can lead us on.
p September 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM
I feel Mr. Simon is an entirely different person. A man with Character that we need more of in the schools in NJ. Unfortunately the good educators get mixed in with those who only think about themselves, those who do not do what is right and those who do not put the kids ahead of their own greed. I do think Mr. Simon could be good if he gives everyone a chance to explain themselves if there is issues. It is the only way to straighten out what is going on in all the Wall Township Schools. To many times only part of a problems is explained only by a few and others never get a chance to truly explain themselves or hear the other side of the problems. Therefore nothing gets solved. Just to let you know, there is other Administrators that knows the students, parents and kids names and they have to be the worse Principal in the entire state...so that does nothing for me.r. For some reason I believe you and the fact Mr. Simon had a good record because I think the man has integrity. On the other hand, I also don't believe in records or 1 in the state claims. A lot of records can appear one way and they are really another. I am not relating this to Mr. Simon because I do think he is different. Trust me there is a lot of fudging going on, inflated grades and issues that no one else sees in many different school. Some schools, administrators, teachers, coaches lack integrity, they cheat, lie and are nothing what they claim they are. It is happening and lot of these records.
p September 19, 2012 at 10:14 PM
@ Tom, Just look at some of problems in the schools in the last couple of years that has been in the media. Schools in this State and other states from North to South. Practically ever other day a story breaks about a Administrator, Teacher or Coach that crossed the line. The educational system has turned in to a disgrace and deserves to be bashed. I do feel sorry and bad for those educators who have ethics, works hard, leads their school on integrity, honesty. Basically doing what is right. Get rid of those who are not in the system for the right reasons. Sorry, not all teachers are equal. Who is kept is not always based on the best choice. It is by who you know and the reason there is so many problems. Some good Teachers and Coaches are not even given a chance and others are let go for all the wrong reasons. The BOE up and down this state need to be checked thoroughly, there needs to be more consequences for those who lack integrity, who does not do for all the students in the school system.
DaTaxPayer September 20, 2012 at 06:57 PM
God works in mysterious ways, Karma is a B!tch and this guy is a crook, just like the other Supers named on the state report. Funny how the people that were named in that report are all getting investigated and going to jail.
Leave it on the Field September 21, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Oh boy.... The Asbury Park Press 9/17/12 - A house call on 'poster boy' 5:55 AM, Sep 17, 2012 | Comments Here we go again. In a scene that is becoming sickeningly familiar to parents and taxpayers at the Jersey Shore, county prosecutors last week raided the home of former Wall schools Superintendent James F. Habel. In 2010, according to the state Department of Education, Habel’s additional pay that year beyond his base pay of $200,273 included $14,250 in allowances, $7,600 in stipends, $15,716 in extra insurance, and $49,932 for a pension annuity. His retirement payout at that point was to be $243,342. Habel received $309,330 for unused days upon his retirement. In 2008, we branded Habel in an editorial as a poster boy for excess, noting, among a long list of perks he received, the free use of a GMC Denali sport-utility vehicle, which he was allowed to fill with up to 150 gallons of gasoline per month.
john habel October 12, 2012 at 11:37 PM
My name is John Habel and James Habel is my brother. My brother and I have not spoken for a long time and he, in my opinion has a lot of faults. However,as much I hate to admit it, is a driven and commited leader. When my brother was fresh out of school he substituted in my high school and unfortunately for me was my wrestling and football coach. He showed no favoritism for me, in fact, he was much more driven for me to succeed. To this day, 30 years after the fact, I am still approached with,"how is coach?"," Coach made me what I am.", "your brother changed my life". A lot of us on his team went on to success and we thank him for it. He taught me so much and i would not be the father and man I am today. He was always driven and hard working. Our brother in law was African-american and he he always lamented to him how hard it was to to reach the disposessed. My brother kept faith with the contract he was given. Give him a break.Go ahead and flame me, But my brother Jimmyis a good guy>
Really? October 13, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Your "Brother" Jimmy was a good guy till he got a wee bit to big for his britches around 2007. He started to believe he was bulletproof and impervious to anyone disagreeing with him. He finageled himself a contract that was shameful signed-by his willful followers. He then brought the "Grand Dame" of witches in to do his dirty work and happily watched her destroy people who were his friends and colleagues and bring our school system to its knees. He and his faithful followers decided to close a community school that is the only school in this district with any feel of community for a savings of 1 million dollars. A mere pittance to the thief he has become. He's a Gym Teacher with a doctorate from an on line university and no one can find his dissertation. I'm sure he was a better person back in the day but you sir have taken a longtime to come to your brother's defense, and I doubt your sincerity. The Monmouth County Prosecutors Office apparently disagrees with you as well.
Leave it on the Field October 13, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Hi, John. Thx for your note. For some of us out here - it's not about your bother's negotiated Employment Contract. AND okay - I admit it - former Superintendent Michael Ritaccio has NJ taxpayers who love kids seeing everything through the sunglasses we are forced to wear ever since they uncovered the glare of the millions of dollars in transactions that changed hands when he built HIS former Ritaccio Athletic Center in Tom's River. He was just sentenced to prison for a very long time and I blame a lot of people in Tom's River for setting the interests of TR kids back ten years. Having said that, I will apologize to you & your entire family if my concerns are overstated here AFTER this all goes away as a big misunderstanding, Also people I've known for over 40 years who worked very closely with your brother are under scrutiny too. Beyond employment & Superintendent-related contract issues, a freedom of info request revealed that the prosecutor's office also requested data related to payments made to your brother & your sister-in-law Eileen Sullivan (his wife) in FL and so people out here are asking, "What?" They also secured copies of the school system's vendor contracts, etc your brother was involved with and we're just out here asking, "Why? Then - You mentioned in your note that you and your Jimmy haven't spoken in a long time. What kind of great man stops talking to a younger brother who refers to him as his hero when no one is watching? I respect you.
TP November 11, 2012 at 02:37 AM
john habel...Obviously you don't know your brother and maybe you were delusional as a young boy. He wasn't nice when he was younger or as he aged. He was always selfish and out for himself. He was arrogant, A Liar and he did not care about the kids of Wall Township, The Parents, The Teachers and Staff and especially all the tax payers. He used this district and the kids... I know parents after parents that had problems with some of the Schools, A Principal that had numerous problems and complaints and you did absolutely nothing. He did not care,,,he knew it and covered for him. Was it because they had issues on each other, most likely because they hated each other. Face it your brother was loser and everyone knows it. I hope they nail his you know what to the wall. If you did not speak to him for a long time there is a reasons. I would not call them faults, he is down right evil and the Lord is going to have a special place for him. I know many individuals that would spit on his grave... Sorry, James is rotten to the core.
Jennifer Klahre May 16, 2013 at 01:20 PM
My name is Jennifer Klahre and my login name was Wall Resident and I guess the way Wall Patch works many people can have that login name. Which there are 12 as of right now. So just to let everyone know I am not the "Wall Resident" that is saying hateful things on here. I have not commented on anything in over 6 months. I have deleted my login name Wall Resident because I do not want to be accused of saying anything that these other 12 Wall Residents on here. Last year I commented on something and was not afraid to put my real name. So being that I was the only one big enough to put my name on here I am now associated with all of the Wall Residents comments. So please leave me out of everything! I do not like hearing that my name is being said around the schools. I have two months and I will be done with Wall Schools! Thank you!
proud June 20, 2013 at 01:16 PM
@john habel, your brother is allegedly a driven thief.
Spooner June 20, 2013 at 05:28 PM
@proud- wouldn't have you on a jury of my worst enemy...
proud June 21, 2013 at 03:32 PM
@Spooner, unless you were part and parcel of the jury selection process, that would not be a determination for you to make. Your comments the other day about the taxpayer report were very biased and just add acrimony to the situation. Take a peeksie in the mirror sometime- if you dare. Questions: Do you think Super Storm Sandy Brower should resign from her suspended position of Superintendent on Lacey and if she were to do so, would it be beneficial the the district? Yes or No answers only, please.

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