Ex-NJ mayor accused of stealing money

June 5, 2008 6:04:45 PM PDT
The former mayor of Irvington, New Jersey, on Thursday was accused of stealing money from the town's Board of Education, where he worked as the business administrator. Michael Steele recently resigned as business administrator for the Irvington school district. He is now accused of stealing $120,000 of the board's money during that time.

The money reportedly was transferred to Steele's bank account.

Steele, the town's first black mayor, was elected in 1990 and served for four years.

The current mayor, Wayne Smith, served as chief of staff during Steele's administration.

An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the State Police Official Corruption Unit revealed that Steele engaged in two separate bid-rigging and kickback schemes between 2003 and 2007 involving approximately $1.4 million in contracts.

Steele, 52, of Easton, Pa., allegedly received kickbacks totaling $120,000 from a Florida-based maintenance supplies contractor in return for ordering supplies from the company for the Irvington school district. Steele allegedly falsified purchase orders, overstating the quantity of supplies that were provided in order to make it appear that the company offered the best prices. The Florida company received a total of approximately $900,000 in district contracts.

In the second scheme, Steele allegedly rigged bids with a contractor in Lakewood, N.J., in order to award him contracts for construction projects and installation of security cameras in the school district. The men allegedly rigged the bids on at least 29 school contracts and inflated the contract prices to build in thousands of dollars in kickbacks for Steele.

Steele is charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct, two counts of second-degree pattern of official misconduct, two counts of second-degree bribery, two counts of second-degree acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior and one count of second-degree conspiracy.

Each count of the indictment carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison with a mandatory minimum of five years upon conviction.