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12 N.J.A.R. 25

Pawlak, Thadeus v. Hopatcong, Board of Education of the Borough of
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Citation: 12 N.J.A.R. 25
Decision Date: 1988
Agency: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Synopsis: Petitioner, a former tenured teacher, sought indemnification under N.J.S.A. 18A:16-6 and 16-6.1 as well as back pay and other benefits as the result of dismissal of criminal charges following his completion of a Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI). Respondent board of education denied entitlement of any benefits. The matter was transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing. Petitioner had been suspended from his teaching position following alleged incidents of corporal contact with students. Shortly thereafter, petitioner was indicted for sexual assault and endangering the welfare of children. He was approved for entry into the PTI program on condition that he resign his teaching position and not seek employment as a teacher in the future. Accordingly, petitioner submitted his resignation to the board. Petitioner successfully completed the PTI program and the criminal charges against him were dismissed. He applied for indemnification of defense expenses, including $5,000 in counsel fees. The administrative law judge assigned to the case denied the request for indemnification. The statute provides indemnification in the event of legal action against a teacher resulting from an act or omission arising out of and in the course of performance of duties. Because there is no nexus between petitioner's actions and the performance of a teacher's duties, petitioner's actions do not arise out of his teaching duties and he cannot be eligible for indemnification. In addition, dismissal of charges following PTI does not constitute final disposition in favor of petitioner, another requirement of the indemnification law. The administrative law judge also denied the claims for back pay and compensation for unused sick days. Upon review, the Commissioner of Education adopted this initial decision. The conduct with which petitioner was charged could not have arisen out of the scope of his duties as a teaching staff member. PTI participation is not analogous to dismissal of charges in favor of the accused, such as for want of proof or failure to follow through on charges. Therefore, petitioner is ineligible for indemnification of defense costs. The State Board of Education affirmed the decision of the Commissioner of Education. The Superior Court, Appellate Division, affirmed in an unreported decision. (A~5083-87T2, July 12, 1989) Sheldon H. Pincus, Esq., for petitioner (Bucceri and Pincus, attorneys) Ellen S. Bass, Esq., for respondent (Rand, Algeier, Tosti, Woodruff & Frieze, attorneys)
Rule(s) Cited: 6:24-1.2 
Citation Tracker adopted-Com'r of Ed.; affirmed -St. Bd.; affirmed -App. Div., AS083-87-T2, 7/12/89 (unreported) [Updated through 1991]