By Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-Ledger
MIDDLETOWN — For nearly two decades, Peter Burnham was one of the most respected higher education officials in the state. The Brookdale Community College president served as head of the New Jersey College Presidents’ Council, sat on a hospital board and garnered numerous national awards for helping to turn his school into one of the most highly regarded two-year colleges in the state.
Former Brookdale College President Peter Burnham (right) pleads guilty at the Monmouth County Courthouse in Freehold. He plead guilty to three charges including misuse of a college credit card. Looking on is defense attorney Steven Secare. 7/24/12 John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger
But along the way, Burnham began using his college-issued business credit cards for more than school expenses, prosecutors said. They said the president, with a $216,000-a-year salary, charged personal hotel stays, clothing, electronics, alcohol, groceries and more to his school account, sometimes altering receipts or lying about the reason for the charges on Brookdale’s expense reports.
In one case, he charged a $60 pair of shoes to his college credit card, then told officials on the Lincroft campus it was a briefcase so he would be reimbursed, prosecutors said.
Today, Burnham stood in a Monmouth County courtroom and pleaded guilty to two counts of official misconduct and one count of theft by deception. Under a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend he be sentenced to five years in prison and be eligible for parole in two years.