A board member violated the Code of Ethics for School Board members when he asked an assistant superintendent if she wanted to become superintendent of the district when the position was not vacant, the New Jersey School Ethics Commission held in a recent decision.

In Schwartz v. Gallagher, two school districts shared a superintendent and a supervisor of curriculum and were involved in a send-receive relationship.  Prior to a board meeting, the board member called the supervisor of curriculum out into the hallway to ask her if she would be interested in becoming superintendent of his district.  The supervisor said that she was not interested and then informed her boss, the shared superintendent of the two districts, of the interaction.

The chief school administrator then informed the board president. The board president filed the complaint after consultation with board counsel.

The School Ethics Commission (SEC) determined that the board member’s actions were beyond the scope of his duties and had the potential to compromise the board. Additionally the SEC determined that the board member’s actions undermined the chief school administrator, (CSA), thwarted the chain of command, and compromised the CSA in the proper performance of her duties.

The respondent’s actions also compromised the supervisor of curriculum in the performance of her duties and violated the proper chain of command. The board member owed both the CSA and the supervisor his support, and his inquiry of the supervisor of curriculum undermined and harmed both of them in the performance of their duties.

The SEC concluded that the board member’s action violated N.J.S.A. 18A:12-24.1(e) because his actions had the potential to compromise the board, and took action which failed to support and protect both the supervisor of curriculum and the CSA in the proper performance of their respective duties.  The SEC recommended a penalty of reprimand for the board member because he had been a school administrator for 30 years and was aware of the potential harm of his actions.  The board member also issued an apology and resigned from the board.

For further information on this case, please contact your board attorney or the NJSBA Legal and Labor Relations Department at (609) 278-5254.