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Elizabeth (N.J.) district settles claim of improperly spending school lunch funds

The district will return $272,000 to the federal school lunch program and pay a $49,500 penalty.

The Elizabeth (N.J.) School District will pay more than $322,000 to settle an allegation that it improperly used federal and state funds to provide meals and catering services for school board meetings and other events.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey says the district has agreed to credit its School Lunch Program $272,810 and pay $49,500 to the U.S. Department of Justice. Government attorneys contended that between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2014, the Elizabeth district failed to collect, reimburse, or apply $182,243 to its lunch program for catering services provided to its school board and $90,567 for catering services provided to various schools, principals, and administrators within the district for other events.

The district receives federal and state funds designated specifically for the National School Lunch Program, and those funds must be kept separate and independent from other funds and used solely for approved lunch program purposes.

In addition to reimbursing the lunch program and paying penalties, district officials will participate in training and be subject to three years of monitoring by the New Jersey Department of Education's Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance and the state Department of Agriculture's Division of Food and Nutrition.

Elizabeth has been the target of an ongoing state investigation into its federal lunch program, The Star-Ledger reports. Former school board president Marie Munn was convicted last year of falsifying applications to obtain free meals for her children.

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