NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A complaint alleging that the New Brunswick Board of Education violated the Open Public Meetings Act in matters related to the sale of the Lincoln Annex School has been dismissed in Middlesex County Superior Court.
Court documents dated July 14 show that Judge Vincent LeBlon dismissed with prejudice four counts charging the board with violating the laws that have served as guidelines for public meetings and ensure their transparency since being adopted in 1975.
Among the findings, LeBlon ruled that a Feb. 21 meeting between School Superintendent Aubrey Johnson, board members Diana Solis, Patricia Sadowski, Edward Spencer, Benito Ortiz and Jennifer Sevilla and about 100 parents of children who attend the Lincoln Annex School did not constitute a Board of Education meeting.
“Rather, it was a meeting specifically held for parents of those children who would be affected by the sale of the Lincoln Annex School and was held by the Board Superintendent at the request of the school’s PTO,” according to the records. “The intention was not to discuss or act on public business, but rather to provide a presentation to those affected parents.”
And since it was not a board meeting, the board was not required to duly advertise it and did not violate the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) when security guards refuse entrance to members of the media.
LeBlon also found that the board did not violate the OPMA at the Feb. 25 Board of Education meeting when it called a temporary adjournment to “regain public order and decorum.” LeBlon found that during closed session, the board’s personnel committee report “was the sole subject of discussion during that time.”
When the board emerged from closed session, it voted in favor of its consent agenda consisting of 22 resolutions, approved two committee reports and an addition resolution that was not originally part of the meeting’s agenda.
The plaintiff, Charles Kratovil, is a New Brunswick resident and activist who has stated his opposition to the plan to sell Lincoln Annex at several Board of Education, Planning Board, City Council and Middlesex County Freeholder meetings over the past several months.
Under the $750 million plan partnering the New Brunswick Board of Education, the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), RWJ/Barnabas and The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Lincoln Annex would be razed and the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital would be built in its place at 165 Somerset St.
A $55 million replacement school will be built on a 4.25-acre lot at 50 Jersey Ave.
During the estimated three years or so it will take to build the replacement school, students will attend classes at the district’s Pathway Campus at 40 Van Dyke Ave.
It’s unclear how Tuesday’s rulings affects a five-count complaint filed by LatinoJustice on the behalf of three Lincoln Annex parents and a Rutgers professor.
The first three counts were dismissed by Superior Court Judge Arthur Bergman, who ruled July 7 that a deed restriction placed on the property at 165 Somerset St. – the site of Lincoln Annex – could only be enforced by the Catholic Diocese of Metuchen.
The Diocese placed several restrictions on the deed when it sold the old St. Peter’s school to the city for $7.4 million in 2013. For example, the site could not be used as “a topless bar” or “an x-rated movie theater.” The deed also came to contain language that the site had to be used “solely for public education purposes or for public administrative offices for no less than 50 years.”
The fourth count alleges that the Board of Education violated the OPMA when it, among other things, took a “secret vote” on the resolution to sell Lincoln Annex.
A phone message left by TAPinto New Brunswick seeking comment was not returned by LatinoJustice.