• KYW News 4:30-7am
    04:00 AM - 07:00 AM

By Pat Loeb

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — The founder of a Camden, NJ charter school is denying any impropriety after her boyfriend — who also works for the school — got a hefty raise as part of a new food services contract.

LEAP Academy puts a lot of emphasis on its food service program. Its website notes that chef Michele Pastorello not only prepares meals but teaches healthy eating.

Still, his salary — $95,000 a year — is well above what entire school districts pay for a similar job.

The reason for his big raise is hard to clarify. LEAP’s founder and board chair, Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, says her relationship with Pastorello is well known and, for that reason, she declined to vote on the food service contract that set his salary.

She directed questions to the contractor, Metz Culinary Management, but Metz says in a statement that the salary was a condition in the Request For Proposal.

A spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Education says food service contracts for charter schools are exempt from public bidding requirements.

This is the third time in a month that LEAP Academy has found itself in the headlines. First, it lost its tax-exempt status after failing to file tax returns for three years. (The IRS restored its 501(c)(3) status last week.) Then, Bonilla-Santiago was named in a whistleblower suit for allegedly using school resources and a school employee to make repairs to her home (see related story).

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