Tuesday, December 29, 2015

State: Fire Board failed to properly account for over $100K in enforcement penalties.

After reporting on a $150,000 settlement in Dwayne Breeden's whistleblower and discrimination lawsuit against Neptune Township (Monmouth County) Fire District No. 1, I decided to request a Division of Fire Safety report that, according to Breeden, found a number of "regulatory violations" and "financial and budgetary irregularities" in the Fire District.  I've placed the Division's October 28, 2013 "Field Monitoring Visit" on-line.

The report essentially backs up Breeden's lawsuit's claims.  While it lists a number of regulatory paperwork violations, the report most notably points out that the Neptune Board failed to properly account for $101,900.35 it received in enforcement penalties.  The report also found that Breeden was placed in the position of "Temporary Fire Official" for longer than permitted.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tabernacle school board's lawyer sanctioned for hearing no-show.

An administrative judge ordered an attorney from the Mount Laurel law firm of Parker McCay to pay his adversary $2,626.68 for missing one court hearing and being late to another.

In his December 21, 2015 ruling, Administrative Law Judge John R. Futey ordered lawyer Cameron R. Morgan to pay $2,626.68 to reimburse attorney Jamie Epstein for the time he wasted attending a May 14, 2015 hearing for which Morgan failed to appear and for arriving one hour and twenty minutes late to another hearing.  Morgan's lapses occurred during his representation of the Tabernacle Township (Burlington County) Board of Education in a special education matter.  Futey characterized Morgan's excuse for failing to attend the May hearing as "lame at best."

Friday, December 18, 2015

The renewal of Jersey City Superintendent Marcia Lyles' Contract

First, I'm opposed to a state law that automatically grants school superintendents multi-year contracts unless the school board votes to NOT renew.  Second, I'm having a hard time understanding how Jersey City's school board's lawyer determined that its superintendent's contract was renewed by a non-vote in this particular case.  So, here's my letter to the Hudson County Superintendent of Schools.
December 18, 2015

Monica M. Tone
Interim Executive County Superintendent
of Hudson County
via Email to Monica.Tone@doe.state.nj.us and 
Fax to 201-369-5288 

In re the renewal of Jersey City Superintendent Marcia Lyles' Contract

Dear Superintendent Tone:

An article was published today, December 18, 2015, in the Hudson County View entitled "Jersey City Superintendent Lyles receives new 4-year contract with schools."  According to the article, Jersey City Superintendent Marcia Lyles, whose present contract expires on June 30, 2016, received a four year renewal of her contract because there were not five board members eligible to vote at the December 17, 2015 school board meeting at which a resolution that would have rejected renewal of Lyle's contract was offered.  

According to the article, of the nine members who serve on the school board, only seven were present at the December 17th meeting.  Of those seven members, "three were ineligible to vote due to family members who work in the district."  This left four members which, according to board counsel Ramon Rivera, prevented the board from voting on a resolution that would have rejected the contract renewal.

I have two questions and hope that you can provide some clarification.

1. N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1, which presumably supersedes Lyles' contract (see #2 below), doesn't require the board to decide whether or not to renew the contract until March 1, 2016.

N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1 states:
At the conclusion of the term of the initial contract or of any subsequent contract as hereinafter provided, the superintendent shall be deemed reappointed for another contracted term of the same duration as the previous contract unless either: a. the board by contract reappoints him for a different term which term shall be not less than three nor more than five years, in which event reappointments thereafter shall be deemed for the new term unless a different term is again specified; or b. the board notifies the superintendent in writing that he will not be reappointed at the end of the current term, in which event his employment shall cease at the expiration of that term , provided that such notification shall be given prior to the expiration of the first or any subsequent contract by a length of time equal to 30 days for each year in the term of the current contract.
My reading of this statute gives the Board until 120 days (i.e. 30 days for each of year of Lyle's four-year contract) prior to June 30, 2016 to notify Lyles that her contract will not be renewed.  According to my calculations, this gives the Board until March 1, 2016 to decide whether or not to renew Lyles' contract.  If this is so, then why would a lack of five eligible voters at the December 17, 2015 meeting foreclose the possibility that five or more eligible voters might attend a meeting prior to March 1, 2016 and vote on a resolution to not renew Lyle's contract?

2. Lyles' contract, if it somehow supersedes the statute, does not provide for renewal of her contract unless the board affirmatively votes to renew it.

Paragraph 11 The unsigned version of Lyles' present contract that I found on the Board's website states:
The parties agree that prior to October 31, 2015, the Superintendent shall notify the Board of her desire to extend her employment on the terms offered or upon other terms upon which the parties may agree. The Board agrees that by December 31, 2015 it shall notify the Superintendent in writing whether it desires to renew this Agreement for an additional period of time, and of the terms and conditions proposed for that period. Failure to notify the Superintendent by that date of an intention to renew will mean that an offer of renewal is not being made.
Assuming that Lyles stated her desire to renew in a timely manner, the board's failure to notify her by December 31, 2015 of its decision to renew would appear to signal the board decision to not renew.  

I look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

John Paff

cc to all the school board members and the board attorney

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Officer who received disciplinary demotion is suing Medford for passing him over for sergeant position.

According to his July 2015 lawsuit, a former Medford Township (Burlington County) Police Sergeant claimed that he accepted a demotion to the rank of corporal in 2012 in order to accommodate the Township's decision, made for reasons of economy, to decrease the number of police officers and their ranks.  Former Sergeant Troy Chenier said, however, that nothing in the Township's ordinances recognized the "rank of corporal" and that the position was created in the Township's contract with the police union to allow senior patrolmen to receive stipends for performing supervisory duties in the absence of a sergeant or other superior officer.

Chenier claimed that he was entitled to be re-promoted if a sergeant's position opened up.  But, unfortunately for Chenier, he "was formally charged with certain misconduct violations."  According to Chenier's lawsuit, the charges caused him to suffer "demotion from the 'rank of corporal'"--presumably busting him down to patrolman.  He insisted, however, that the the disciplinary penalties did not cause him to lose his right to be promoted to sergeant when that position opened up. Chenier claimed that during the disciplinary proceedings, Township officials assured him that he was not disqualified.

When a sergeant's position was later created, Chenier sought it.  But, Police Chief Richard J. Meder told him that he "would not be automatically promoting you to the rank of Sergeant based upon your previous demotion."

The lawsuit argues that "the demotion from Corporal did not impliedly disqualify [Chenier] from his re-employment rights" and that "if the present promotional process proceeds and is not subjected to immediate judicial review, then another person other than the plaintiff will obtain a vested property interest in the title that the Plaintiff seeks which may prevent the Plaintiff from obtaining the relief that he seeks."