||New Jersey Libertarian Party
Open Government Advocacy Project:
Manasquan Board of Education
- Christine Muly, President and members of the
Manasquan Board of Education
169 Broad St
Manasquan, NJ 08736 (via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org )
Dear President Muly and Board members:
The minutes of the Board\'s January 17, 2012 and January 24, 2012 executive sessions raise some troublesome issues. Those minutes are attached to this letter and, respectively, are available on-line at:
The most troubling issue, in my view, is Mr. McOmber\'s statement to President Muly, as reflected in the January 17th minutes, that \"he had a conflict\" negotiating with \"with the staff on special education issues.\" Then, at the January 24th meeting, the Board \"decided that [it] would stay with Mr. McOmber\'s firm for this service.\"
This information raises two areas of concern. First, which N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(b) exception justified having this conversation outside of public view? The exception stated in the resolution--exception (b)7-\"pending or anticipated contract negotiations\"--is intended to shield the Board\'s negotiation strategy and tactics from its adversary. Given that all the 12(b) exceptions must be strictly construed against closure and in favor of openness, I question the Board\'s reliance on that exception. I think that exception (b)8 is a closer fit, but I still doubt that it would cover a discussion about the Board attorney\'s possible conflict.
Second, and more troubling, Mr. McOmber, candidly, expressed to his client that it would be unethical for him to do \'X\' because it would consitute a conflict of interest and violate the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Board, apparently, rejected his concern and instructed him to do \'X\' despite his concerns.
Like the minutes discussed in my January 16, 2012 letter to the Board, the January 17th and 24th minutes do not reveal sufficient details to permit the public to know \'X\' (i.e. the nature of Mr. McOmber\'s alleged conflict). The public needs to know the nature of Mr. McOmber\'s perceived conflict so that it can a) judge for itself whether the conflict is real and would put Mr. McOmber at odds with the Rules of Professional Conduct and b) if so, report Mr. McOmber to the District IX Ethics Committee if he obeys his client\'s instructions to provide representation notwithstanding the conflict.
Therefore, I ask that the Board please announce in public, at its next meeting, the nature of the conflict that Mr. McOmber reported to President Muly. If the Board declines this invitation, I ask that it resolve to amend the minutes of its January 17, 2012 executive minutes to reveal the nature of the conflict. Thereafter, I will submit an OPRA request for those minutes and, if the Board redacts the text that would disclose the conflict\'s nature, we can let a court decide whether the public\'s right to know or the Board\'s assertion of confidentiality is paramount.
Also troubling are two non sequiturs in the January 17, 2012 executive minutes. First is the sentence \"It was also noted that the coach was not present for a meeting with the students and parents\" which immediately followed a discussion of \"inappropriate comments\" on Facebook. The second is the sentence \"A RICE notice will be provided to the staff member involved in this matter prior to further discussion in closed session.\"
These non sequiturs raise questions regarding the coach\'s role in the Facebook incident and that a \"staff member\" may have acted inappropriately in dealing with 8th graders. Clearly, the public has an interest in knowing about teachers and staff members who may be conducting themselves inappropriately with students.
Is the Board intentionally making its executive session minutes vague? Would the Board be willing, at its next meeting, to revise its January 17th executive minutes so as to make them comprehensible? Remember, the Board would not be jeopardizing any confidentiality concerns simply by revising its executive minutes since it can always redact and confidential material from them prior to public disclosure.
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