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“G” is for “Going Public”
By Andrew W. Li on January 10, 2018

Now that the excitement of the New Year, with the tumult of annual organization meetings and new members taking office, has passed, a Board’s attention should turn to the more prosaic and procedural aspects of public life.

All school officials – which includes Board members -- are required by New Jersey School Ethics Act to annually file what are known as “Disclosure Statements," in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:12-25 and 18A:12-26.

In their Personal/Relative Disclosure Statement, each school official must disclose certain information as to whether: (1)  Any relative or any other person related to the school official by marriage is employed by the school district; (2) The school official or a relative is a party to a contract with the school district; and (3) The school official or a relative is employed by, receives compensation from, or has an interest in any business which is a party to a contract with the school district.

In their Financial Disclosure Statement, each school official must disclose certain information as to: (1)  Any income (earned or unearned) in excess of $2,000 received by the school official or a member of his immediate family during the preceding calendar year; (2)  Any fees or honorariums in an aggregate amount more than $250 for personal appearances, speeches, or writings received by the school official or a member of his immediate family during the preceding calendar year; (3) Any gifts, reimbursements, or prepaid expenses with an aggregate value of more than $250 from any single source received by the school official or a member of his immediate family during the preceding calendar year; and (4) Any business organizations in which the school official or a member of his immediate family had an interest during the preceding calendar year.

Board Secretaries are required to compile and submit a list of school officials, by February 1st and/or June 1st of each year. 

Typically, returning school officials must file their Disclosure Statements by April 30th of each year.

However, for new school officials, Disclosure Statements must be filed within thirty (30) days of their appointment and, in the case of newly elected/appointed Board members,  those individuals must file their Disclosure Statements within thirty (30) days of taking office. 

The Disclosure Statements, once filed with the School Ethics Commission, are public records which can be viewed by any member of the public.

Failure to file the required Disclosure Statements – or knowingly filing a Disclosure Statement which contains false information – means that a delinquent school official could be subject to reprimand, censure, suspension, or removal – and possibly even criminal prosecution.

Therefore, ALL school officials, and especially those Board members who have newly taken office, should make every effort to file accurate and timely Disclosure Statements. (Keep in mind that, even if the Disclosure Statements are ultimately filed, but not until after the School Ethics Commission has issued an Order to Show Cause, the Commissioner of Education may still impose a reprimand on the delinquent school official).

For more information, please contact Parker McCay’s school law attorneys.

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion.  You should consult a lawyer concerning your specific situation and any specific legal question you may have.

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