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Gannett Satellite Information Network Inc. v. Board of Education of Borough of Manville

Decided: November 30, 1984.

GANNETT SATELLITE INFORMATION NETWORK, INC., D/B/A THE COURIER-NEWS, PLAITIFF,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE BOROUGH OF MANVILLE AND DAVID GREEN, DEFENDANTS



Meredith, J.s.c.

Meredith

The issue presented in this case is whether the "personnel exception" of the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(b)(8), applies when a school board fills a vacancy created by a departing board member. This court holds that it does not and that the meeting must be open to the public.

The parties are essentially in agreement as to the material facts of the case. Christine Nowosielski was elected to a three-year term on the Manville Board of Education in April 1983. She submitted her resignation in August 1984 to take an out-of-state job.

The Board invited the public to submit applications to fill this vacancy. Five candidates applied. At the regularly scheduled Board meeting on September 17, 1984, the Board adopted a resolution to the effect that the Board would meet in a closed session on September 24, 1984 for the purpose of interviewing the candidates. Forty-eight (48) hours written notice of the meeting was not given.

At the September 24, 1984 closed meeting, the candidates were interviewed and a decision was made to appoint David Green to fill the vacancy.

The Courier-News then instituted this action in lieu of prerogative writs seeking to declare the appointment of David Green void for failure to comply with the Open Public Meetings Act and compelling the defendants to make minutes of the closed meeting available to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff has moved for summary judgment on the grounds that this meeting was required to be open to the public pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act and that the Board failed to give proper notice of the meeting.

The defendants claim that this meeting was within the personnel exception to the Open Public Meetings Act and that the notice given at the prior Board meeting satisfied the statutory requirements.

N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(a) requires all meetings of public bodies to be open to the public at all times, subject to certain exceptions. Among those exceptions is the so-called "personnel" exception of N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(b)(8), which reads as follows:

b. A public body may exclude the public only from that portion of a meeting at which the public body discusses:

(8) Any matter involving the employment, appointment, termination of employment, terms and conditions of employment, evaluation of the performance of, promotion or disciplining of any specific prospective public officer or employee or current public officer or employee employed or appointed by the public body, unless all the individual employees or appointees whose rights could be ...


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