SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – A Middlesex County Superior Court Judge has dismissed, with prejudice, all complaints brought forth by a sitting member of the South Plainfield Board of Education (SPBOE) against current and former colleagues and a half-dozen borough residents. 

However, despite ruling in favor of the defendants, the court has also denied the district’s request to recover tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds used to pay attorney’s fees and costs associated with the litigation.

Last October, plaintiff Deborah Boyle, a current member of the SPBOE who is seeking re-election this November, and her husband Robert filed a six-count complaint against current board of education (BOE) members Ernie ‘Jim’ Giannakis, Tom Cassio, Doug Chapman, and Pio Pennisi, former BOE members Carol Byrne and William Seesselberg, and six South Plainfield residents. Note: SPBOE members Cassio and Giannakis are also seeking re-election this November with Seesselberg also looking to garner one of the three at-large seats. 

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Over the months that followed, amended complaints were submitted by the plaintiffs and, in June, Middlesex County Superior Court Judge James F. Hyland ruled in favor of the SPBOE defendants. In his decision, the judge granted a ‘Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice’ six counts in the Boyles’ Third Amended Complaint for ‘failure to state a claim’ and, as of late August, all complaints against the six residents named were also dismissed on the same aforementioned grounds. 

“As expected, the judge dismissed this lawsuit in its entirety before any discovery whatsoever took place. None of Mrs. Boyle's claims or allegations were based on valid legal causes of action,” the current and former SP BOE members named in the compliant told TAPinto South Plainfield in a joint statement. 

“We feel this lawsuit was brought to promote a personal vendetta against fellow members of the South Plainfield community, rather than to pursue any legitimate claims. What actually happened was that Mrs. Boyle caused a waste of resources and legal expenses in forcing her fellow board members to defend themselves in an unnecessary lawsuit,” continued the defendants in their statement.”

While the residents named in the lawsuit were required to obtain and foot the cost of legal counsel, the SPBOE members – both current and former – named in the complaint were represented by an attorney with Capehart Scatchard, P.A., who, following the June dismissal, filed a ‘motion to recover attorney fees and costs as a result of frivolous litigation’ in behalf of his clients.

According to district officials, billed legal expenses pertaining to the complaints against the former and current SPBOE members were in excess of $33,000. 

In late August, however, Judge Hyland denied the BOE defendants’ requests to recoup legal expenses, stating that ‘despite plaintiffs’ attorneys mistakes throughout the course of the litigation…’ and ‘this Court’s entry of its Order to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint against majority of the Defendants, this Court does not find that the litigation commenced from bad faith, for the purposes of harassment, delay or malicious injury.’ The motion also goes on to state that ‘since the moving Defendants were dismissed in the early stages of litigation before any discovery took place, this Court finds that counsel fees are not warranted.”

“Mrs. Boyle knows how tight board of education budgets are. We feel that such an egregious waste of funding that otherwise could have gone to educational expenses was instead squandered for self-gain and is appalling,” added the defendants in their statement. “We feel that Mrs. Boyle should reimburse the taxpayers and school district.”

Boyle did not respond to TAPinto South Plainfield's requests for comment.

Editor's Note: The collaborative statements from the current and former SPBOE members included in this article were provided by defendants Carol Byrne, Tom Cassio, Doug Chapman, Jim ‘Ernie’ Giannakis, Pio Pennisi and William Seesselberg. 

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