Recently, several board of education members have notified NJSBA regarding technical difficulties they were having in filing the required personal/relative and financial disclosure statements with the state’s School Ethics Commission (SEC).

The New Jersey School Boards Association reached out to the SEC, and received clarification on the problems, which stem from putting a new electronic filing system into place this year.

“NJSBA thanks the SEC for its quick response to our inquiries,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “We are particularly pleased that the SEC recognized that issues and delays are, for the most part, beyond the control of local board members, and appreciate the SEC’s assurance that they would provide latitude to board members with respect to the statutory deadlines.”

The SEC has also provided an option for board members who may wish to complete forms in a paper format, rather than electronically.

Kathryn A. Whalen, director of the Offices of School Ethics and Compliance, sent an email to the New Jersey Department of Education’s county offices, and copied NJSBA.

The text of the email is below:

On behalf of the School Ethics Commission (SEC), we would like to share some information with you regarding the status of the SEC’s new electronic filing system for 2021 Personal/Relative and Financial Disclosure Statements (Disclosure Statements).

By way of background, due to certain Department system upgrades at the end of 2020, the previous electronic filing system became obsolete and is no longer operational. The Department’s IT office has since been working on creating a new electronic filing system. As this new electronic filing system has been rolled out in a phased approach, SEC has been and remains committed to troubleshooting and resolving all issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.

We anticipate the SEC’s new electronic filing system will be fully operational in the near future. Increased functionalities are expected to include:  the ability of board secretaries to view the Disclosure Statements of their filers; the ability of board secretaries to reject those filings which are inaccurate and/or incomplete (along with comments/notations of errors); the ability of board secretaries to return Disclosure Statements to filers; and the ability of board secretaries to see which filers have not yet filed.  The county offices and their staff will also be able to begin using the new electronic filing system.

We further recognize that nearly all issues and delays that you are experiencing are, in large part, beyond your control.  As the SEC is the body charged with enforcement of failure to abide by N.J.S.A. 18A:12-25 and N.J.S.A. 18A:12-26, we assure you that we will provide latitude with respect to statutory deadlines.

Finally, we are prepared, as necessary, to provide an option in lieu of the fully operational system.  To the extent you may have a board member or administrator who is not well-versed in technology and would appreciate the opportunity to complete his/her Disclosure Statements via pen and paper, he/she can access a form of the Disclosure Statements from the SEC’s website.  Once completed, they should be provided to the board secretary for uploading and submission.

The SEC and its staff appreciate your continued patience and understanding during this process, while acknowledging the unnecessary strain that this may cause.