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Schulman v. O''Reilly-Lando

Decided: August 4, 1988.

AARON SCHULMAN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
BERNADETTE O'REILLY-LANDO, JERSEY CITY BOARD OF SCHOOL ESTIMATE AND MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF JERSEY CITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County.

King, Gaulkin and Gruccio. The opinion of the court as delivered by King, P.J.A.D.

King

Plaintiff Schulman, then a member of the Jersey City Board of School Estimate and the Jersey City Board of Education, brought this suit in March 1987 seeking the removal of Bernadette O'Reilly-Lando, a member of City Council of Jersey City, from her position on the Board of Estimate. He claims that because she worked as a school nurse for the Board of Education she had an irreconcilable conflict of interest in reviewing the school budget as a member of the Board of Estimate.*fn1 The Law Division judge ordered O'Reilly-Lando's removal from the Board of Estimate because of this conflict of interest. Concluding that N.J.S.A. 18A:6-8.4 permits O'Reilly-Lando to serve, we reverse.

O'Reilly-Lando was appointed as a school nurse by the Board of Education and works under its direction. See N.J.S.A. 18A:40-3.1. She is also an elected member of the Jersey City Municipal Council and was appointed to the Board of Estimate by City Council. The Board of Estimate in a Type I school district, such as Jersey City, has five members -- the Board of Education appoints two members, the governing body appoints

two members, and the mayor or other chief executive officer of the municipality serves as the fifth member. N.J.S.A. 18A:22-1. The function of the Board of Estimate is to review the budget prepared by the Board of Education and "fix and determine" the amount of money to be appropriated for the school system. N.J.S.A. 18A:22-14.

Our conclusion in this case rests on the wording of N.J.S.A. 18A:6-8.4, L. 1972, c. 151, which states

No person employed by a public educational system or institution in a position which requires a certificate issued by the State Board of Examiners, or employed in a professional educational capacity by a school, college, or university which is either tax-supported or operated under contract with the State or on behalf of the State shall be disqualified by reason of such employment from holding any elective or appointive State, county or municipal office excepting as member of the board or body by which he is employed.

O'Reilly-Lando contends that N.J.S.A. 18A:6-8.4 permits her to hold a position on the Board of Estimate even though she is employed as a school nurse in the Jersey City school district. She also claims that there is no violation of the common-law principles of incompatibility in holding dual offices.

We conclude that O'Reilly-Lando's situation fits within the literal terms of the statute. She is employed by a public educational system, and, as a school nurse, is required to have a certificate issued by the State Board of Examiners. N.J.S.A. 18A:1-1; N.J.A.C. 6:11-12.9. The plaintiff and the Commissioner of Education urge a "sensible" or less literal interpretation of the statute upon us because of the possibility of conflicting interests. While we are not insensitive to these imprecations as a matter of policy, we are restrained by the reality that the policy decision has been made by the legislature.

"If the statute is clear and unambiguous on its face and admits of only one interpretation, we need delve no deeper than the act's literal terms to divine the Legislature's intent." State v. Butler, 89 N.J. 220, 226 (1982); Ingraham v. Travelers

Companies, 217 N.J. Super. 126, 129 (App.Div.1987), aff'd o.b. 110 N.J. 67 (1988); Dacunzo v. Edgye, 19 N.J. 443, 451 (1955); 2A Sutherland, Statutory ...


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