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Published in Print: August 2, 2000, as Former N.J. Mayor Accused Of Bilking N.Y. District

Former N.J. Mayor Accused Of Bilking N.Y. District

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A former longtime mayor of Newark, N.J., was indicted last week on federal conspiracy, bribery, and fraud charges in what prosecutors say was a scheme to bilk money from a suburban New York school board that had hired his engineering firm to oversee a $50 million school construction and renovation project.

Kenneth A. Gibson, who was elected in 1970 to the first of four terms as mayor, is accused along with two associates of billing the Irvington school board in Westchester County, north of New York City, for work his company did not perform or for costs not related to the project, and of charging inflated rates for contractors' work.

The 18-count indictment, returned July 24, also accuses Mr. Gibson of paying thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to two school board members to cast votes favorable to his firm and of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars of his company's money into his own real estate investments and other personal uses without reporting that income to tax authorities.

'Unwarranted' Charges

Robert J. Cleary, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, contended in a statement that Mr. Gibson had "used [Irvington's] treasury for his personal enrichment, taking from a generation of Irvington school students."

Ralph J. Marra Jr., the assistant U.S. attorney assigned to prosecute the case, said last week that Mr. Gibson's Newark firm, Gibson Associates, had billed the Irvington district for $4 million between 1991 and 1995. He would not say, however, what portion of that billing prosecutors deem fraudulent. "It was a significant fraud, and a lot of public money was taken that should have gone to build schools," Mr. Marra said.

Mr. Gibson's lawyer, Cathy Fleming, issued a statement saying that her client had been cooperating fully with the four-year probe by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. She called the indictment "unfortunate and unwarranted."

"Mr. Gibson looks forward to clearing his name and is confident [that] when all the facts are elicited, he will be vindicated," Ms. Fleming said.

Mr. Gibson, 68, and his co-defendants were not arrested, promising instead to appear in court when an arraignment date is set.

The Irvington project was designed to build a new middle school and renovate two other schools in the 1,400-student district. The new school was completed in 1994. The renovations were completed in 1998, Mr. Marra said.

Vol. 19, Issue 43, Page 3

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This article misidentified the district involved in the indictment case. It is the 7,800-student Irvington Township district in Essex County, N.J., not the Irvington Union Free School District in Westchester County, N.Y., as was erroneously reported.

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