Board of Education of the City of Sea Isle City v. Kennedy

951 A.2d 987 (2008)

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Board of Education of the City of Sea Isle City v. Kennedy

New Jersey Supreme Court
951 A.2d 987 (2008)

EL

Facts

William Kennedy (plaintiff) was elected as president of the Sea Isle City Board of Education (the board) (defendant) in 2001. Kennedy resigned in 2003, and then he filed a request with the New Jersey Department of Education for a due-process hearing against the board. Kennedy claimed his son’s special educational needs were not being met. In 2004, prior to reaching a final settlement with the board, Kennedy was again elected as board president. In 2005 Kennedy and his wife filed new claims against the board, requesting a due-process hearing and asserting that the board had breached the earlier settlement agreement. In this new claim, Kennedy sought a substantial payment for the services his wife provided for their son in the absence of appropriate school services. The board argued that Kennedy’s claims constituted a disqualifying conflict of interest and justified his removal from the school board. The board cited the New Jersey statutory disqualification rule that prohibited board members from having an interest in claims against the board. Kennedy argued that his claims fit within the later-enacted School Ethics Act (SEA) exemption to the disqualification rule, which allowed any school official to represent himself in proceedings against the board concerning his own interests. The board filed a petition with the commissioner of education seeking a declaration that Kennedy’s applications against the board were incompatible with Kennedy’s board presidency. The case was assigned first to an administrative-law judge, who found Kennedy’s petitions against the board permissible under the SEA exemption. The commissioner rejected the administrative-law judge’s recommendation and found in favor of the board, ordering Kennedy’s removal from office. Kennedy appealed to the state board of education and then the state appellate court, which both found in favor of the board. Kennedy then appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (LaVecchia, J.)

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