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GannettUSA Today

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Padded head count doesn't count

It's yet another example of how political insiders get away with doing things that we common folk clearly see as wrong. A former state assemblywoman, Mary Previte of Camden County, has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the state Office of Government Integrity in efforts to get more money for the juvenile detention center she ran for 31 years.

But how can that be, given this scenario? In the months leading to the day of the official head count that would determine how much state education funding would be allocated to the center, girls were transferred from the overcrowded facility. But when Previte and others at the center realized that the smaller census would mean less money for the facility, 30 girls were brought back to the center in time for the head count. Each child was worth about $9,000 in state aid.

These transfers surely smack of fraud. It adds up to $270,000 that shouldn't have gone to Previte's center. But the investigators somehow found no proof that she and her staff knew they were breaking the law. Anyone with the least bit of common sense could see that. Oh, the investigators did recommend state guidelines to prevent such transfers in the future. But for an insider like Previte, all is forgiven.

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