A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Tag: board members

Attorney’s Fees Not Available Under OPMA

By on December 16, 2020 in Open Public Meetings Act with 0 Comments

Plaintiff John Paff filed a lawsuit in the Law Division of the New Jersey Superior Court against the Trenton Board of Education (“Board”) alleging, in part, that the Board violated the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”) and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (“NJCRA”) because the Board did not reference the payment of a merit bonus to the Superintendent on its agenda for a public meeting. Plaintiff argued that if he prevailed on this issue, he would be entitled to attorney’s fees under OPMA. While the Superior Court found that the Board violated OPMA by failing to provide the public […]

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Executive Order 196 Exempts School Board Meetings from Capacity Limitations

By on November 17, 2020 in Legislation with 0 Comments

On November 16, 2020, Governor Philip Murphy signed Executive Order 196 related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  A significant aspect of the Order is that legislative proceedings of school boards are expressly excluded from the capacity limits on gatherings in EO196 or any other applicable Executive Order.  Previously, it was unclear whether the legislative proceedings exemption to the capacity requirements applied to boards of education.  The Order clarifies that the exemption does apply.  Caution is urged because other requirements related to social distancing and mask wearing continue to apply and will have the effect of limiting capacity at board meetings.  The Order […]

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Appellate Division Affirms Electronic Voting by BOE

On October 30, 2020, the New Jersey Appellate Division in Schwartz v. Princeton Board of Education issued an unpublished decision affirming that a board of education may utilize an electronic voting system so long as all of the other requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”) are met. In other words, electronic voting by board of education members is not a per se violation of OPMA. Plaintiffs, members of the public, filed a lawsuit against the Princeton Board of Education (“Board”) alleging that its vote on a specific agenda item at its June 12, 2018 public meeting violated OPMA. […]

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Regulations Impose Vast Obligations on Public Bodies Conducting Remote Meetings

On September 24, 2020, the Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services (“DLGS”) issued Local Finance Notice 2020-21 to further explain the new emergency regulations for remote public meetings held during a declared emergency.  The emergency regulations were promulgated by the Director of DLGS in accordance with Section 8 of newly enacted L. 2020, c. 34, and are codified as N.J.A.C. 5:39-1.1. through 1.7.  The emergency regulations aim to ensure continuity of government operations and transparency in conducting public business when an emergency requires a governing body, subject to the Open Public Meetings Act, to hold meetings remotely.  […]

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Additional Guidance on Conducting Remote Board Meetings

About two weeks ago, we addressed the issue of how boards of education could conduct their school board meetings electronically and still comply with the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”) when there is a severe restriction on public gatherings due to the coronavirus health crisis. Fortunately, the Division of Local Government Services (“DLGS”) recently provided additional guidance on this issue. DLGS emphasized that telephonic or virtual public meetings without a physical meeting place should be utilized for the foreseeable future in light of the Governor’s Executive Order 107. Virtual meeting options include streaming and/or online meeting platforms, such as Google […]

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Holding Board Meetings Electronically During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By on March 17, 2020 in Open Public Meetings Act with 0 Comments

Despite severe restrictions placed on public gatherings, school boards must meet during the coronavirus pandemic to address critical business, including convening a public hearing on the budget. The solution, holding a public meeting electronically, is supported by recent guidance from the Division of Local Government Services (“DLGS”). The Open Public Meetings Act (N.J.S.A. 10:4-8(b)) permits public meetings to be held in person or by means of communication equipment.  DLGS guidance provides that communications equipment includes streaming services and other online meeting platforms. Notice of a meeting held by electronic equipment must be properly noticed.  Similarly, the board must provide a […]

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Appellate Division Affirms OPMA Does Not Require BOE to Discuss Proposed Employment Action Prior to Voting

On May 17, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division in Centrella v. Prospect Park Board of Education issued an unpublished decision confirming that, under the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”), a board of education is not required to discuss a proposed employment action prior to actually voting on that action. This case involved a former Prospect Park Board of Education (“Board”) employee’s appeal under the OPMA in which she alleged that the Board improperly eliminated her position of speech language specialist and terminated her tenured position when the Board did not discuss the proposed action at the same meeting in […]

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Contract Rescission Does Not Avoid Need for Public Notice and Hearing

By on March 15, 2019 in Labor & Employment with 0 Comments

By: Robert A. Muccilli, Esq. Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. Statutes are to be read sensibly rather than literally. This was the message sent by the New Jersey Appellate Division on March 14, 2019 in Wall Township Education Association v. Board of Education of the Wall Township School District when it reversed the Commissioner of Education’s decision and held that a superintendent and school district may not avoid the requirements for public comment and public hearing under N.J.S.A. 18A:11-11 simply by rescinding an existing superintendent employment contract. The Superintendent had a contract which was to expire on June 30, 2019. After […]

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Union Endorsement of BOE Candidate Not an Automatic Conflict

By on October 16, 2018 in School Ethics Act with 0 Comments

An individual served as a board of education member for an initial term. During his candidacy for reelection, the local education association and statewide education association decided to endorse the individual. The individual was reelected. Is this a conflict of interest and a violation of the School Ethics Act? Not necessarily, said the School Ethics Commission (“SEC”) in Advisory Opinion A10-18 issued on June 26, 2018. The local education association (“LEA”) offered financial support to the individual, which he did not accept. On its own accord, the New Jersey Education Association (“NJEA”) circulated printed material endorsing the individual’s candidacy. The […]

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N.J. Supreme Court Reverses Blanket Rice Notice Requirement for Personnel Actions at Public Meetings

By: Cameron R. Morgan, Esq. Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. On June 21, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court has reversed an Appellate Division ruling that many felt had overly burdened public bodies in the administration of their duties and gone beyond the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 to -21 (“OPMA”).  Kean Fed’n of Teachers v. Morell, ___ N.J. ___, No. A-84-16 (2018).  Under the seminal decision in Rice v. Union County Reg’l High Sch. Bd. of Educ., 155 N.J. Super. 64, 73 (App. Div. 1977), public bodies seeking to invoke the OPMA exception allowing them […]

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