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Matawan Regional Teachers Association v. Matawan-Aberdeen Regional Board of Education

May 19, 1986

MATAWAN REGIONAL TEACHERS ASSOCIATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATAWAN-ABERDEEN REGIONAL BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT



Peskoe, J.s.c.

Peskoe

This is an expansion of a letter opinion dated April 18, 1986 which has been implemented by order dated May 19, 1986.

This in lieu of prerogative writs matter raises novel issues under the state's Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. § 10:4-6 et seq. Plaintiff, Matawan Regional Teachers Association (hereafter "association") asserts that defendant, Matawan-Aberdeen Board of Education (hereafter "board"), failed to make minutes of certain meetings "promptly available to the public" as required by § 4-14 of the act. No case has yet construed these terms for purposes of this act. Nor has any court determined the appropriate remedy where a public body fails to make its minutes "promptly available."

The facts are not disputed. The association is the certified collective negotiations representative for certain of the board's employees. The board held meetings on the dates indicated involving the following subjects:

May 28, 1985: Special Action Meeting on Requirements for Graduation.

June 3, 1985: Special Meeting on School District Reorganization.

June 10, 1985: Discussion Meeting on School District Reorganization.

June 17, 1985: General Action Meeting.

June 19, 1985: Action Meeting followed by Special Meeting on District Reorganization.

Minutes of the May 28, 1985 meeting were distributed on or about June 11, 1985 and approved at a July 15, 1985 meeting. Minutes of the June 3, June 10, June 17 and June 19, 1985 meetings were completed between July 15 and August 19, 1985, and approved at an August 19, 1985 meeting.

The association complains that the minutes of all five meetings were not promptly available. It seeks injunctive relief to ensure future compliance. The board maintains it has substantially complied with the act.

The Open Public Meetings Act asserts a legislative policy "favoring public involvement in almost every aspect of government." Polillo v. Deane, 74 N.J. 562, 569 (1977), N.J.S.A. § 10:4-7. To further this policy the act provides that:

Each public body . . . shall keep reasonably comprehensible minutes of all its meetings showing the time and place, the members present, the subjects considered, the actions taken, the vote of each member, and any other information required to be shown in the minutes by law, which shall be promptly available to the public to the extent that making such matters public shall not be inconsistent with section 7 of this act. [ N.J.S.A. § 10:4-14; emphasis supplied]

The legislation is to be liberally construed to effectuate its policy. N.J.S.A. § 10:4-21; Rice v. Union County Regional High School Bd. of Ed., 155 N.J. Super. 64, 70 (App.Div.1977). Strict adherence to the letter of the law is required in considering whether a violation has ...


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