School board is more than just a little bit pregnant

The Hunterdon Review reports on “New allegations made against Clinton Township school board” relating to New Jersey’s “Sunshine Law.” More details of the formal complaint made to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s office by and in a threatend lawsuit from open government advocate John Paff are available here.

According to the Review:

Legal Double-Talk 101

But the allegations are published online and include official audio recordings and meeting minutes obtained directly from the school board. The recordings reveal clearly that the board of education failed to comply with very specific requirements of N.J.S.A. 10:4-13 and N.J.S.A. 10:4-7, and that the official audio and the written minutes do not match.

The audio and the minutes reveal that, when it comes to the Sunshine Law, the school board isn’t as smart as a fifth grader.

Has school board attorney Vito Gagliardi reviewed the materials, and does he “think” the allegations “are not accurate,” or does he know they are not accurate?

Because his next quote in the Review article suggests Gagliardi has indeed reviewed the evidence that’s been made public, and has already prepared the board to follow the law retroactively:

“Just a little bit pregnant”

But Gagliardi shows mastery of a more advanced public relations tactic: He just mis-states the facts.

That’s not true.

The complaint brought to the prosecutor’s office clearly alleges that the school board may have taken official action in private, which would be a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act that requires further investigation.

But any violations of New Jersey law are serious.

The board can’t be “just a little bit pregnant,” though Gagliardi’s characterization may suggest the school administration is not really violating the law all the time, just some of the time to a lesser degree.

It’s how lawyers like to do their summations — by salting the facts to make them more palatable to the judge, and to the public.

This story is playing out like all stories about the Clinton Township school board’s bad behavior: It’s another cover-up. But the ante has been raised, and now board president Jim Dincuff has had to play his attorney.

Pity “the kids” — the board’s misbehavior is going to cost money that could have been spent in the classroom, if only the board had invested in legal counsel at its public meetings rather than pretend that school officials know how to follow the law on their own.

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