A Capehart Scatchard Blog

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 individual serves on the board of education’s negotiations team. He also received notice that the LEA President may file a lawsuit against him.

In its advisory opinion, the SEC explained that a local and/or statewide union’s endorsement of a candidate does not automatically create a future conflict unless  financial contribution is given and is intended to influence the individual in the discharge of his duties as a board member. Legitimate political activity by itself does not violate the School Ethics Act and does not per se create a conflict.

Based on the individual’s circumstances, the SEC found that the board member in question did not have an automatic conflict. The SEC cautioned the board member to not surrender his independent judgment to any special interest group. The SEC also advised that if the LEA President initiates a lawsuit against him, he should recuse himself from any matter related to the LEA.

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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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