Investigators from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice have been contacting staff members at the school district as part of a probe into the Eastside High School basketball scandal, according to a report in the Star-Ledgar.
Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, would not confirm nor deny the existence of any investigations, the report says.
The report says state investigators have been reaching out to staff members at the school and setting up interviews. A teacher and union representative, Rich Callaway, told the paper two teachers have told him they were contacted this week by investigators.
This marks a dramatic turn in the Eastside High School basketball scandal that led to the firing of two coaches — Juan Griles and Alberto Maldonado — and suspension of a third – girls’ basketball coach Ray Lyde, Jr.
Gregory Cooper, a supervisor of athletics at the school, was also terminated. Patty Granados, a secretary at the district’s registration office, has been barred from her seasonal part-time job at the district.
Karen Johnson, principal of Eastside High School, has been forced to retire.
The district took actions against the staff members following a 250-page investigation report by former New Jersey Supreme Court judge John Wallace. Wallace called for a criminal investigation into the matter in his report dated late March after finding discrepancies in the registration of a Nigerian student. “Someone intentionally altered” the student’s transcript presented to Eastside High School, according to his findings. He cleared allegations that a grade was changed noting it was a “mistake” to clarify a grade in the transcript. He determined the alteration of the student’s transcript may be a criminal offense.
Wallace found “employees failed to follow many necessary requirements.” For example, the judge found employees failed to register the students at the center of the scandal at the district headquarters as is required, but registered them at Eastside High School.
Cooper failed to submit timely transfer forms to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), Wallace found. He sent a memo to the coaches to comply with the NJSIAA to have them complete transfer forms, but failed the follow up. Griles and Maldonado did not have “working knowledge of the NJSIAA’s rules and regulation,” said his report.
The scandal is largely focused on Griles. He had temporary guardianship of five student athletes who lived at his apartment in the city. At least one complained about lack of food and poor living condition, according to news reports. Wallace’s report says, the basketball coach having temporary guardianship of five athletes “at first blush raises suspicions of whether he is doing this for an athletic advantage.”
2 of the students were his godsons and 3 of them were international students he accepted as a “humanitarian gesture,” says Wallace’s report.
Wallace’s report concludes Griles intent in accepting temporary guardianship of the athletes was not intended to seek an athletic advantage. Griles registered the students by taking them to meet principal Johnson at her office. And then having secretary Granados process their registration paperwork by circumventing the typical registration through the district office, says the judge’s report.
“Because Coach Griles, who had just met with principal Johnson, asked her to register the students, Granados assumed that principal Johnson had approved,” reads Wallace’s report.
Granados told the judge she was following instructions from “higher ups” meaning the principal and Griles.
Maldonado registered a Nigerian student through the district office, according to the judge’s report. Maldonado reportedly has said he did not have the student living with him. His attorney has said the registration form that stated he was the guardian of the student was forged. He said he never filed out the forms.
Maldonado did not cooperate with Wallace’s investigation.
The Star-Ledger first reported on Eastside High School’s use of foreign players from Puerto Rico and Nigeria in early February. The reporting triggered investigations from the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.