the State Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Kean Federation of Teachers v. Ada Morell overturning the Appellate Division ruling on Rice notices and requirement that minutes be released within a specific amount of time.
On Thursday, the State Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Kean Federation of Teachers v. Ada Morell, a case which the League joined as amicus. In this case, the Court addressed various issues involving the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), including Rice notices and the meaning of “promptly available” as it relates to the release of meeting minutes.
With regards to Rice notice requirements, the Court overturned the Appellate Division ruling which required Rice notices be sent out “in advance of any meeting at which a personnel decision may occur.” The Court, siding with the League and other amici, held that the lower court’s ruling incorrectly expanded the reach of Rice notices and OPMA requirements. The Court clarified that Rice notices are required only when the public body first makes the choice to discuss personnel matter in a closed session, and only when the discussion could result in adverse employment actions.
Turning to the second issue, the Court reiterated the need for a fact sensitive approach when determining whether or not meeting minutes have been made “promptly available.” The Court acknowledged that this was the approach taken by the Appellate Division but took issue with the remedy devised by the lower court. The Court overturned the lower court’s requirement that minutes be released within a specific amount of time, finding that to do so would intrude on the public body’s prerogative as to how it operates. The Court cautioned, however, that making meeting minutes promptly available is an essential function of a public body, and therefore the operations of a public body should conform to meet this function.
You should review this decision with your municipal attorney for more information on how it impacts your municipality. This information should also be shared with your municipal clerk.
We would like to thank John Gillespie, who represented the League in this matter, for his outstanding work on this case.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, FMarshall@njslom.org, 609-695-3481, Ext. 137