A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Individual Prohibited from Simultaneously Serving on Two Boards of Education

By on June 12, 2018 in Board Members with 0 Comments

In November 2013, Jeffrey Fischer was elected to the Manchester Regional High School Board of Education (“Manchester Board”) for a three-year term expiring in January 2017. He was also elected to the Haledon Board of Education (“Haledon Board”) in November 2015 for a three-year term commencing in January 2016. The Haledon Board serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade and then sends its students to the Manchester Regional School District for high school. On May 30, 2018, the Appellate Division in Fischer v. State of New Jersey confirmed that an individual is prohibited from serving on two boards of education at the same time.

Fischer filed for declaratory judgment seeking clarification from the court as to whether he could be a board member for both boards of education at the same time even though N.J.S.A. 19:3-5.2 prevents him from doing so. N.J.S.A. 19:3-5.2 reads, in part:

For elective public office other than as provided in R.S.19:3-5 or N.J.S.40A:9-4, a person elected to public office in this State shall not hold simultaneously any other elective public office.

The trial court determined that N.J.S.A. 19:3-5.2 was ambiguous and ruled that Fischer could serve on both boards simultaneously. The trial court found that the legislative intent of the statute was to prohibit an individual from collecting two salaries and two pensions if holding two elected positions. As a board of education member, Fischer did not receive any compensation.

On appeal, the Appellate Division rejected Fischer’s arguments that the statute should be interpreted liberally. While the Appellate Division acknowledged that N.J.S.A. 18A:38-8.1 permits limited dual-office holding in which a board member of a sending school district may sit on the board of the receiving district only to consider issues involving the sending district, the statute does not explicitly authorize complete dual-office holding.

The Appellate Division further reasoned that the Legislature did not carve out an exception to N.J.S.A. 19:3-5.2 which would allow an individual to serve on two boards of education at the same time. In short, the Appellate Division reinforced that an individual may not be elected to two school boards nor sit on two boards simultaneously without explicit statutory authority.

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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