It should have come sooner.
That's Toms River High School South junior Ken Gaughran's take upon hearing that former longtime Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent Michael J. Ritacco pleaded guilty to corruption charges today in federal court.
"Hopefully some pride and trust will be restored with the Board of Education," said Gaughran, who has followed the Ritacco saga from day one. "I'm actually glad he just pleaded guilty. It was dragging everyone down. He probably should have admitted it in the first place. It probably would have been easier."
Ritacco pleaded guilty this morning in federal court in Trenton to mail fraud and conspiracy to impede the IRS. He could face 11 to 14 years of jail time, according to sentencing guidelines. His trial was slated to start Monday.
Forked River resident Daniel Menchise agreed that Ritacco should have pleaded guilty earlier.
"He probably should have admitted it in the first place," Menchise said. "It probably would have been easier."
For Jimmy Capone — the owner of Capone's on Washington Street in Toms River — the Ritacco story has been an embarassment.
"I just think the whole thing is a shame," Capone said. "It's embarrassing. I have kids that go to the school system. It's still a great town, still a great school system. We are going to be fine."
For Toms River resident Virginia Noto, the Ritacco scandal is just one in a long line of public officials.
"The greed!" she said. "It's like in fashion. What happened to good old-fashioned virtues? They went out the window. How dare he!"
Ritacco pleaded guilty to two of the 27 charges he was facing, and admitted his role in years of corruption at the school district, where as much as $2.5 million in bribes were allegedly passed between Ritacco, insurance brokers and intermediaries.