FREEHOLD — The former head of a New Jersey county college who resigned amid allegations of financial irregularities pleaded guilty Tuesday to misconduct and theft charges.

Peter Burnham, who stepped down in 2011 as president of Brookdale Community College, faces up to five years in prison after entering his pleas as part of a deal with Monmouth County prosecutors.

The 68-year-old Colts Neck resident pleaded guilty to counts of official misconduct, using his college-issued credit card for personal use and depositing a $20,000 student loan for his son into a personal bank account. As part of his plea deal, Burnham must repay $24,000 to Brookdale and reimburse the student loan.

Burnham had drawn scrutiny from officials over contract perks he received in addition to his $216,000 salary.

Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said Burnham improperly obtained more than $40,000 worth of meals, alcoholic beverages, airfare, hotel stays, clothing, electronics, tuition assistance and other items of value. Many of the purchases were made on college-issued credit cards and improperly listed as business-related expenses, Gramiccioni said.

The Brookdale Community College Board of Trustees had approved unpaid administrative leave for Burnham at an emergency meeting in March 2011, after an investigation was launched into expenses associated with his office.

Burnham had come under fire at the time from Monmouth County officials over perks he received beyond his salary, including a country club membership, a new vehicle and up to $40,000 in tuition assistance to send his two children to private universities.

Burnham is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 21.

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