By: Najla Alexander
Authorities in Ocean County announced that on September 20, Michael Ruvo, 56, of Toms River, was charged with the crimes of Official Misconduct and Pattern of Official Misconduct in connection with his previous employment as the Code Enforcement-Zoning Officer for the Borough of Beachwood.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer reported that the charges are the result of an investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office’s Professional Standards Unit-Economic Crime Squad.
Authorities say the investigation revealed that from September 2018 through March 2023, Ruvo was employed by the Borough of Beachwood in the position of Code Enforcement-Zoning Officer.
In that capacity, officials stated, Ruvo was responsible for conducting inspections to ensure compliance with various municipal ordinances, initiating legal proceedings against violators of municipal ordinances, and signing off on certificates of occupancy that permitted residences to be occupied.
The investigation further revealed that Ruvo engaged in several unauthorized transactions wherein he utilized his position to gain unlawful personal benefits, officials said.
Specifically, in April 2022, Ruvo created a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to surreptitiously purchase a property on Surf Avenue in Beachwood subject to various code violations.
According to officials, Ruvo failed to disclose to the individual who held power of attorney for the property owner that he was, in fact, the purchaser and claimed to be arranging the sale on behalf of a third party who wished to remain anonymous.
The investigation, officials say, revealed that Ruvo was able to negotiate a sale price of $80,000 – notwithstanding the fact that the appraised value of the property at the time was in excess of $200,000; closing of title on the subject property thereafter occurred in July 2022.
In a separate instance in June 2022, Ruvo issued a code enforcement violation to a property owner on Tiller Avenue.
The property that contacted Ruvo in his capacity as Code Enforcement Officer, advising she had received an estimate to bring the property up to code but was seeking an extension of time to remedy the violation, officials say.
Officials said Ruvo then related to the property owner that he knew of a company that would perform the job for less money than the estimate provided to her and in a timelier manner.
Ruvo instructed the property owner to contact the company, Express Cleanout, where it was revealed that Ruvo was the owner of Express Cleanout and failed to advise the property owner of this fact.
Ruvo’s company then failed to complete the job in full, and authorities say, despite not completing the work, Ruvo deemed the property to be in compliance in his capacity as Beachwood’s Code Enforcement Officer.
Finally, the investigation revealed that while Ruvo was employed in Beachwood as the Code Enforcement-Zoning Officer, he was also employed by the Borough of Point Pleasant Beach as a Code Enforcement Officer between March 30, 2021, and September 30, 2021, as well as the Borough of Lavallette in the same capacity from August 15, 2022, through March 19, 2023, officials stated.
A comparison of time sheets between the boroughs of Point Pleasant Beach, Lavallette, and Beachwood reveal more than of 150 hours, wherein Ruvo certified that he was on the clock working for Beachwood - while also certifying that he was working in either Point Pleasant Beach or Lavallette at the same time.
Officials said that on September 20, Ruvo surrendered himself to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office in the presence of his attorney.
According to officials, he was released on a summons pending a future appearance in Ocean County Superior Court.
“I would ask anyone in possession of additional information with respect to Ruvo’s conduct as a Code Enforcement Officer in Beachwood, Point Pleasant Beach, or Lavallette to contact Sergeant Raymond Gardner of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office’s Economic Crime Squad at (732) 929-2027, extension 3908,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.