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13 N.J.A.R. 846

Hackensack, Bd. of Ed. of the City of; Gayeski, Frank et al
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Citation: 13 N.J.A.R. 846
Decision Date: 1989
Agency: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Synopsis: Petitioners sought an order voiding respondent's appointment of Ann Small as principal of an elementary school in the district. The matter was transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing. Petitioners alleged that the vote to appoint Ms. Small violated the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), that respondent prevented public debate on the appointment and that respondent violated its own policy of obtaining an independent assessment of candidates for the principal position. Respondent denied all allegations and moved for summary decision. The administrative law judge found that the appointment was approved during a meeting of the Board on May 31, 1988. The five candidates for the position were interviewed during meetings on May 11 and 12; these earlier meetings did not comply with OPMA because of lack of required notice. However, the judge concluded that the vote at the May 31 meeting, which was in compliance with OPMA, was de novo consideration of the issue and, therefore, valid. The fact that Board members may have considered information obtained during the May 11 and 12 meetings did not invalidate the May 31 vote. The May 31 action was deemed to be de novo because there was review and discussion of the appointment process as well as public discussion and a vote in public view. As to the failure to obtain an independent evaluation, the admin- istrative law judge concluded that the use of such assessments was a Board policy which the Board had authority to amend or repeal. In this case, the Board voted to forego the evaluation because the State of New Jersey 847 Assessment Center was not available. The Board did not act wrong- fully in making the appointment without an independent evaluation. The motion for summary decision was granted and the petition was dismissed. Upon review, this initial decision was adopted by the Com- missioner of Education. The Commissioner noted that the Board did not exclude the public from deliberations, but only from candidate interviews, which it may do for reasons of maintaining confidentiality. A Board may use information obtained in closed meetings, provided its decisions are arrived at in meetings which comply with OPMA. Patrick C. English, Esq., for petitioners (Dines and English, attorneys) Lester Aron, Esq., for respondent (Sills, Cummis, Zuckerman, Radin, Tischman, Epstein & Gross, attorneys) Wayne J. Oppito, Esq., for Intervenor Ann Small
Statute(s) Cited: 10:4-6 et seq.