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Rankin v. Board of Education of Egg Harbor Township

Decided: February 6, 1947.

JESSE E. RANKIN, RESPONDENT,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP AND MELISSA H. ADAMS, PROSECUTORS-APPELLANTS



On appeal from the Supreme Court, whose opinion is reported in 134 N.J.L. 342.

For the prosecutors-appellants, William Charlton.

For the respondent, Louis D. Champion.

Mclean

The opinion of the court was delivered by

McLEAN, J. This appeal brings before the court for review the judgment of the Supreme Court dismissing a writ of certiorari and affirming the order of the State Board of Education setting aside the award of a contract to the appellant Melissa H. Adams, by the appellant Board of Education of Egg Harbor Township.

Three successive requests for bids were issued by the appellant Board of Education for the transportation of pupils.

Bids were received on May 14th, 1945, June 7th, 1945, and July 17th, 1945. Each time the bid of respondent Jesse E. Rankin was $900 or better below that of appellant Melissa H. Adams. Appellant Melissa H. Adams was the sister-in-law of the chairman of the transportation committee of the Board. After appellant had been underbid twice and all bids had been rejected, the specifications were revised for the bidding of July 17th. Requirements were added in excess of the specifications prescribed by the State Board which made competition difficult, if not impossible. The Township Board also required, in advance of awarding the contract, the physical production before it, of the bus proposed to be used, and it appears that under the conditions prevailing it was impractical if not impossible for any one other than appellant to meet this requirement. On July 17th there were two bids. The bid of respondent Jesse E. Rankin was rejected and the contract was awarded to appellant Melissa H. Adams. Both bids were in precisely the same form recommended by the State Board of Education. They were in the same terms except that the bid of Mr. Rankin was for $5,500 and the bid of Mrs. Adams was for $6,421.60. Each bidder enclosed cash or a certified check for five (5%) per centum of the amount of the total bid and each stated in the same language "if I am awarded the bid, I agree to furnish a bus to meet your approval and that of the County Superintendent of Schools and to comply with all the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education relating to pupil transportation." The only pertinent deviation, except for the amount of the bid, was the fact that Mrs. Adams exhibited physically to the local Board a bus containing details of body specifications which the Board had inserted in the specifications, while respondent, Rankin, because of priority governmental regulations which were entirely beyond his control, was unable to get another bus to match these requirements in advance of being awarded the contract. But he did produce a bus which actually complied with all the specifications prescribed by the State Board.

Three grounds of appeal are argued: (1) That the State Board lacked authority to conclude the Board of Education

by rules and regulations concerning pupil transportation and the type and specification of bus to be used therefor. (2) That the local Board of Education had the power to enlarge any rule, regulation or specification imposed by the State Board. (3) That no legal proof was established to show any corrupt influence or interest in the award of the contract.

There is no merit in the argument that the State Board lacked authority. The powers of that Board are very broad. (R.S. 18:2-4.) The statute was designed to give that Board general supervision and control of the public instruction. Specific authority is given in matters of pupil transportation. County superintendents in the distribution of state funds to school districts are authorized to pay 75% of the cost of transportation of pupils when the necessity for such transportation, the cost and method thereof have his approval. (18:10-41P.) Such approval is subject to appeal to the State Board. The State Board prescribes the amount of liability insurance to be carried by the contractor or bus driver as well as other rules and regulations applicable to pupil transportation (R.S. 18:14-12) and no contract for the transportation of pupils shall be made unless each bid shall be accompanied by information required on a standard form of questionnaire approved by the State Board (R.S. 18:14-11). The power and authority of the State Board of Education to supervise and control the transportation of pupils including the method of transportation and type of vehicle is not open to question.

We disagree with appellants that the local Board had the power to enlarge any rule, regulation or specification imposed by the State Board. It is the prerogative of the local board to contract for the needed facilities for pupil transportation (18:14-10), but its contracts are subject to the supervision of the State Board under the statutes cited and must ...


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