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Cole v. Woodcliff Lake Board of Education

Decided: January 24, 1978.

JOAN COLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WOODCLIFF LAKE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT



Morrison, J.c.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Morrison

This matter comes before the court on motion of plaintiff Joan Cole for summary judgment. Defendant Woodcliff Lake Board of Education has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. This case concerns a personnel decision made by defendant and projects issues respecting our Open Public Meetings Act, or Sunshine Law, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 et seq.

The material facts reveal that on March 29, 1977 defendant Woodcliff Lake Board of Education adopted a resolution at a public meeting terminating, effective May 31, 1977, plaintiff's probationary employment as secretary in the Woodcliff Lake school system. Plaintiff, on May 13, 1977, filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs seeking to invalidate the board's action, alleging that the board had failed to comply with the provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6.

Plaintiff was hired by defendant board as secretary on a probationary basis by contract of April 15, 1974. This contract

was renewed twice, extending the period of plaintiff's employment to June 30, 1977. All three of plaintiff's contracts provided that either party could terminate said contract by giving the other party 60 days' notice in writing of such intention to terminate. A question of tenure of this employee is at issue, since, if the Board had not exercised its option of terminating plaintiff's contract as of May 31, 1977, plaintiff would automatically have gained tenure status on June 1, 1977.

The following sequence of events led to the board's determination to terminate plaintiff's contract of employment:

1. On March 15, 1977 a regularly scheduled public meeting was held by the board, at which time a resolution was adopted which stated in pertinent part:

BE IT RESOLVED that the Woodcliff Lake Board of Education will meet in private session at 8:00 a.m. on March 21, 1977 and on April 4, 1977 following the Reorganization Meeting to discuss the following:

1) Review the performance of individual personnel; * * *

and further BE IT RESOLVED that the matters so discussed will be disclosed to the public as soon as such disclosure can be made without violation of the confidentiality of personnel.

2. At the same meeting on March 15, 1977 the board adopted a resolution to adjourn the regular public meeting to March 29, 1977 to conclude unfinished business of the board.

3. On March 16, 1977 a notice of said adjourned regular meeting scheduled for March 29, 1977 was mailed to The Record and The Local Review and was also posted in the Woodcliff Lake borough hall, the United States Post Office in the Borough and on the bulletin board of the board meeting room.

4. On March 21, 1977 the board met in closed session and reviewed plaintiff's performance record.

5. On March 29, 1977 the board met for its scheduled adjourned regular public meeting. The agenda for that meeting reflected in part that the board would act on "Other

Business -- any other unfinished business of this Board ready for or requiring action at this time."

The minutes of this meeting reflect that the board unanimously adopted a resolution terminating its April 26, 1976 contract ...


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