6/7/24 Update re: Ethics Complaint Filed Against Councilwoman Denise Belcher

As mentioned in a previous post, on March 28th I filed an Ethics Complaint against Councilwoman Denise Belcher regarding an Application for a zoning variance before the Township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Since Teaneck dissolved our local ethics board, the Complaint is adjudicated by the Local Government Division of the Local Finance Board.

The first step in resolving these types of complaints is to meet and determine if it’s frivolous or whether the allegations merit review.  As per Counsel at the LFB, that happened today and as per the letter they just sent:

“Please be advised that it is the Board’s practice and intent to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations presented. The Board’s staff is processing your complaint at this time and will, subsequently, present it to the Board for review and authorization of any necessary action. The Board will correspond with you as soon as a determination is made in this matter.”

Translation: It is not dismissed as frivolous.

You can read the complaint here: LFB Complaint #24-013

You can read the letter here: Letter from Local Finance Board dated June 6, 2024.

2024-06-07_Response from LFB (24-013)

 

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Councilwoman Denise Belcher

TDMC Results (TRMC Coming soon)

Just a note: While these do come from the County, there are still mail-in ballots that may be arriving, rejections that can be fixed and other issues that may alter the final tally.

The clerk will issue a final number in due course.

DistrictType of votingRegistered DemsVotes CastTurnout (%)
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)CARROLL ANNE GRECEJONATHAN ROSSWrite-insG REINEROSAMA USMANIAJHA RAHMANPALESTINEGerard ReinerDesiree R. Reiner
Teaneck 1Early Voting608172.80%13121111
Teaneck 1Election Day6087412.17%58427
Teaneck 1Mail-In608437.07%322911
Teaneck 1Provisional60800.00%
Teaneck 1Total60813422.04%103837111111
TeaneckTotal60813422.04%103837111111
Total - Early Voting608172.80%13121111
Total - Election Day6087412.17%58427
Total - Mail-In608437.07%322911
Total - Provisional60800.00%
Contest Total60813422.04%103837111111
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)IRWIN BENZELMELISSA BENZELMOHAMED ARIF KHANWrite-insMahejabeen Kathawala
Teaneck 2Early Voting871313.56%3122711
Teaneck 2Election Day87110612.17%24336828
Teaneck 2Mail-In871667.58%12264610
Teaneck 2Provisional87100.00%
Teaneck 2Total87120323.31%39711412821
TeaneckTotal87120323.31%39711412821
Total - Early Voting871313.56%3122711
Total - Election Day87110612.17%24336828
Total - Mail-In871667.58%12264610
Total - Provisional87100.00%
Contest Total87120323.31%39711412821
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)AYELET HIRSCHKORNREUBEN SHARRETWrite-insMUBINA KATHAWALAMohamed Arif KhanMahejaben Kathawala
Teaneck 3Early Voting7549813.00%88815
Teaneck 3Election Day75418124.01%12211720
Teaneck 3Mail-In754547.16%364033
Teaneck 3Provisional75400.00%
Teaneck 3Total75433344.16%24623820533
TeaneckTotal75433344.16%24623820533
Total - Early Voting7549813.00%88815
Total - Election Day75418124.01%12211720
Total - Mail-In754547.16%364033
Total - Provisional75400.00%
Contest Total75433344.16%24623820533
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)THOMAS A. ABBOTTTAMAR D. WARBURGGWENETTE REESEWrite-insYIBAL GROSSYIGAL GROSSMICKEY MOUSEFREE PALESTINECEASEFIRE NOWGRUBR
Teaneck 4Early Voting76914919.38%9911136461111
Teaneck 4Election Day76913817.95%9077513
Teaneck 4Mail-In7698210.66%643344
Teaneck 4Provisional76900.00%
Teaneck 4Total76936947.98%2532211313461111
TeaneckTotal76936947.98%2532211313461111
Total - Early Voting76914919.38%9911136461111
Total - Election Day76913817.95%9077513
Total - Mail-In7698210.66%643344
Total - Provisional76900.00%
Contest Total76936947.98%2532211313461111
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)JUANITA BROWNYASSINE ELKARYANIWrite-ins
Teaneck 5Early Voting571193.33%1615
Teaneck 5Election Day5717713.49%59463
Teaneck 5Mail-In571315.43%2421
Teaneck 5Provisional57100.00%
Teaneck 5Total57112722.24%99823
TeaneckTotal57112722.24%99823
Total - Early Voting571193.33%1615
Total - Election Day5717713.49%59463
Total - Mail-In571315.43%2421
Total - Provisional57100.00%
Contest Total57112722.24%99823
Registered VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)ALEXANDRA SORIANO-TAVERASRONALD SCHWARTZWrite-ins
Teaneck 6Early Voting735182.45%179
Teaneck 6Election Day7357410.07%61393
Teaneck 6Mail-In73510213.88%8378
Teaneck 6Provisional73500.00%
Teaneck 6Total73519426.39%1611263
TeaneckTotal73519426.39%1611263
Total - Early Voting735182.45%179
Total - Election Day7357410.07%61393
Total - Mail-In73510213.88%8378
Total - Provisional73500.00%
Contest Total73519426.39%1611263
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)JAMES R. NORMANLEYAT MAFOUDAAVI BERLINERMARGARET E. FISHERWrite-ins
Teaneck 7Early Voting698497.02%16303217
Teaneck 7Election Day69811616.62%534552493
Teaneck 7Mail-In698578.17%39111038
Teaneck 7Provisional69800.00%
Teaneck 7Total69822231.81%10886941043
TeaneckTotal69822231.81%10886941043
Total - Early Voting698497.02%16303217
Total - Election Day69811616.62%534552493
Total - Mail-In698578.17%39111038
Total - Provisional69800.00%
Contest Total69822231.81%10886941043
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)SHARON VATSKYARTHUR VATSKYMICHAEL KLATSKYSHANA B. DWORKENWrite-ins
Teaneck 8Early Voting820617.44%22183737
Teaneck 8Election Day82019523.78%847487922
Teaneck 8Mail-In8209010.98%63592119
Teaneck 8Provisional82000.00%
Teaneck 8Total82034642.20%1691511451482
TeaneckTotal82034642.20%1691511451482
Total - Early Voting820617.44%22183737
Total - Election Day82019523.78%847487922
Total - Mail-In8209010.98%63592119
Total - Provisional82000.00%
Contest Total82034642.20%1691511451482
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)DANIEL A. BLOOMELIZABETH KLEINHILLARY KESSLER-GODINWrite-ins
Teaneck 9Early Voting69212017.34%1052594
Teaneck 9Election Day69222432.37%18063160
Teaneck 9Mail-In692608.67%413428
Teaneck 9Provisional69200.00%
Teaneck 9Total69240458.38%326122282
TeaneckTotal69240458.38%326122282
Total - Early Voting69212017.34%1052594
Total - Election Day69222432.37%18063160
Total - Mail-In692608.67%413428
Total - Provisional69200.00%
Contest Total69240458.38%326122282
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)SHARON L. KOLBRHONA VEGANOAH LIBENWrite-ins
Teaneck 10Early Voting66313620.51%1324126
Teaneck 10Election Day66319930.02%15251151
Teaneck 10Mail-In6638913.42%414765
Teaneck 10Provisional66300.00%
Teaneck 10Total66342463.95%325102342
TeaneckTotal66342463.95%325102342
Total - Early Voting66313620.51%1324126
Total - Election Day66319930.02%15251151
Total - Mail-In6638913.42%414765
Total - Provisional66300.00%
Contest Total66342463.95%325102342
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)CARLEY L. PEVENWrite-insAlan SohnALAN SOHNALLEN SOHNABDUL WAHEEDTALIA ROSENBERGSOHNALAN SONNE
Teaneck 11Early Voting57213323.25%12438334131
Teaneck 11Election Day57218231.82%161111
Teaneck 11Mail-In572478.22%41121
Teaneck 11Provisional57200.00%
Teaneck 11Total57236263.29%326111158434131
TeaneckTotal57236263.29%326111158434131
Total - Early Voting57213323.25%12438334131
Total - Election Day57218231.82%161111
Total - Mail-In572478.22%41121
Total - Provisional57200.00%
Contest Total57236263.29%326111158434131
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)EMIL STERNTERESA R. BAYEWITZWrite-insSCOTT ALTIERI
Teaneck 12Early Voting80712815.86%1211221
Teaneck 12Election Day80718522.92%1611574
Teaneck 12Mail-In8079411.65%7777
Teaneck 12Provisional80700.00%
Teaneck 12Total80740750.43%35935641
TeaneckTotal80740750.43%35935641
Total - Early Voting80712815.86%1211221
Total - Election Day80718522.92%1611574
Total - Mail-In8079411.65%7777
Total - Provisional80700.00%
Contest Total80740750.43%35935641
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)CLARA WILLIAMSRAYMOND ADDISONWrite-ins
Teaneck 13Early Voting809323.96%2923
Teaneck 13Election Day80914217.55%121751
Teaneck 13Mail-In809556.80%5234
Teaneck 13Provisional80900.00%
Teaneck 13Total80922928.31%2021321
TeaneckTotal80922928.31%2021321
Total - Early Voting809323.96%2923
Total - Election Day80914217.55%121751
Total - Mail-In809556.80%5234
Total - Provisional80900.00%
Contest Total80922928.31%2021321
Registered
Voters
Voters CastTurnout (%)GLORIA J. WILSONJAMES D. EDMONDS IIIWrite-insJohn Smith
Teaneck 14Early Voting1139534.65%4130
Teaneck 14Election Day113917815.63%141904
Teaneck 14Mail-In1139696.06%63501
Teaneck 14Provisional113900.00%
Teaneck 14Total113930026.34%24517041
TeaneckTotal113930026.34%24517041
Total - Early Voting1139534.65%4130
Total - Election Day113917815.63%141904
Total - Mail-In1139696.06%63501
Total - Provisional113900.00%
Contest Total113930026.34%24517041
Registered VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)TALYA ROSENBERG ZACHARY YITZCHAK GREENBERGNATASHA WILLIAMSWrite-insKWASIGLENN WILLIAMSGLENN WILLIAMS JR
Teaneck 15Early Voting7899912.55%787620111
Teaneck 15Election Day78913316.86%7169588
Teaneck 15Mail-In789465.83%302123
Teaneck 15Provisional78900.00%
Teaneck 15Total78927835.23%1791661018111
TeaneckTotal78927835.23%1791661018111
Total - Early Voting7899912.55%787620111
Total - Election Day78913316.86%7169588
Total - Mail-In789465.83%302123
Total - Provisional78900.00%
Contest Total78927835.23%1791661018111
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)DENISE SANDERSCHERYL L. HALLWrite-ins
Teaneck 16Early Voting54081.48%*********
Teaneck 16Election Day5408115.00%59321
Teaneck 16Mail-In540336.11%2826
Teaneck 16Provisional54000.00%
Teaneck 16Total54012222.59%93621
TeaneckTotal54012222.59%93621
Total - Early Voting54081.48%*********
Total - Election Day5408115.00%59321
Total - Mail-In540336.11%2826
Total - Provisional54000.00%
Contest Total54012222.59%93621
Registered VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)DONALD STARKGERVONN C. ROMNEY-RICEWrite-ins
Teaneck 17Early Voting881404.54%2635
Teaneck 17Election Day88113014.76%81952
Teaneck 17Mail-In881647.26%5454
Teaneck 17Provisional88100.00%
Teaneck 17Total88123426.56%1611842
TeaneckTotal88123426.56%1611842
Total - Early Voting881404.54%2635
Total - Election Day88113014.76%81952
Total - Mail-In881647.26%5454
Total - Provisional88100.00%
Contest Total88123426.56%1611842
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)JENNIFER A. MONTAGSTEPHEN GRUBERQURAN GEEWrite-insSam PassnerDANIELLE GEE
Teaneck 18Early Voting84310712.69%9379171
Teaneck 18Election Day84316920.05%131107532
Teaneck 18Mail-In8439110.79%7432421
Teaneck 18Provisional84300.00%
Teaneck 18Total84336743.53%298218112211
TeaneckTotal84336743.53%298218112211
Total - Early Voting84310712.69%9379171
Total - Election Day84316920.05%131107532
Total - Mail-In8439110.79%7432421
Total - Provisional84300.00%
Contest Total84336743.53%298218112211
Registered VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)JUDITH SAMUELS RAMOSGABRIELLE SOPHIA WASSERMANDANIEL M. ROSENBLUMSEAN HIRSCHHORNWrite-insElie Katz
Teaneck 19Early Voting7518311.05%29502846
Teaneck 19Election Day75113117.44%636243515
Teaneck 19Mail-In7518010.65%61115761
Teaneck 19Provisional75100.00%
Teaneck 19Total75129439.15%15312312810351
TeaneckTotal75129439.15%15312312810351
Total - Early Voting7518311.05%29502846
Total - Election Day75113117.44%636243515
Total - Mail-In7518010.65%61115761
Total - Provisional75100.00%
Contest Total75129439.15%15312312810351
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)ELIE Y. KATZMICHELLE M. BIVINSRUTH EZRAPOURJARREN N. BIVINSWrite-ins
Teaneck 20Early Voting4979819.72%86167911
Teaneck 20Election Day49715230.58%12036111252
Teaneck 20Mail-In4975210.46%32262318
Teaneck 20Provisional49700.00%
Teaneck 20Total49730260.76%23878213542
TeaneckTotal49730260.76%23878213542
Total - Early Voting4979819.72%86167911
Total - Election Day49715230.58%12036111252
Total - Mail-In4975210.46%32262318
Total - Provisional49700.00%
Contest Total49730260.76%23878213542
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)LORETTA WEINBERGROBERT ELKINWrite-insMUHAMMAD BAGASRAPALESTINE
Teaneck 21Early Voting788253.17%171722
Teaneck 21Election Day7888610.91%63439
Teaneck 21Mail-In78811214.21%10788
Teaneck 21Provisional78800.00%
Teaneck 21Total78822328.30%187148922
TeaneckTotal78822328.30%187148922
Total - Early Voting788253.17%171722
Total - Election Day7888610.91%63439
Total - Mail-In78811214.21%10788
Total - Provisional78800.00%
Contest Total78822328.30%187148922
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)DEVORAH BACKMANOSAMA USMANIAJHA RAHMANWrite-insPALESTINE
Teaneck 22Early Voting744425.65%1232281
Teaneck 22Election Day74411815.86%3472725
Teaneck 22Mail-In744557.39%243634
Teaneck 22Provisional74400.00%
Teaneck 22Total74421528.90%7014013451
TeaneckTotal74421528.90%7014013451
Total - Early Voting744425.65%1232281
Total - Election Day74411815.86%3472725
Total - Mail-In744557.39%243634
Total - Provisional74400.00%
Contest Total74421528.90%7014013451
VotersVoters CastTurnout (%)Write-insRhona VegaNoah LibenPALISTINEZUNERA ZUBAIRY
Teaneck 23Early Voting721192.64%11
Teaneck 23Election Day7217510.40%12
Teaneck 23Mail-In721354.85%21
Teaneck 23Provisional72100.00%
Teaneck 23Total72112917.89%122111
TeaneckTotal72112917.89%122111
Total - Early Voting721192.64%11
Total - Election Day7217510.40%12
Total - Mail-In721354.85%21
Total - Provisional72100.00%
Contest Total72112917.89%122111
COUNTY COMMITTEE

Reminder: Do Not Bring Weapons To Meetings

Sometimes, it appears that you need to say the little things, so please… do NOT be like Layla Graham, and do NOT bring a weapon to the Council meeting this evening.

Meeting Info for May 21, 2024:

  • Agenda: http://teanecktownnj.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=1896&Inline=True
  • Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88241458874 (Passcode: 651745)
  • Cable (ch. 77) or FiOS (ch. 47)
  • Youtube (TBD) or Web: http://teanecktownnj.iqm2.com/Citizens/default.aspx

For those unaware, you can watch what transpired at the prior meeting here:

Layla Graham appeared for her first appearance (CJP) in Bergen County Superior Court on May 13th.

Her next scheduled appearance is June 11th at 9am before Criminal Judge Marc Ramundo.

Amanda Kearney’s first appearance is set for tomorrow, May 22nd (also before Criminal Judge Marc Ramundo) at 9am.

UPDATE: Amanda Kearney’s first appearance was postponed to June 11th at 9a before Criminal Judge Marc Ramundo.

If you wish to attend, please note that all criminal appearances are listed for 9am, so there may be some waiting involved.
The Courtroom is in Building 3 on the fourth floor, room 401.


The State of New Jersey v. Layla M. Graham:

S-2024-000179-0260

Continue reading “Reminder: Do Not Bring Weapons To Meetings”

What is Kaplan v. Teaneck BOE about anyway?

In one word, Transparency. It’s also about the fact that the Board dismissed Principal Pedro Vades from Teaneck Hich School through a series of meetings that violates NJ’s Sunshine Law.

The law lets any citizen bring suit to ensure the law is complied with correctly.  Today, I happen to be that citizen.

Of course, Mr. Edelstein (who says on his firm Bio:  “I always want to be the best prepared person in the courtroom”), has the upper hand being an attorney admitted to the NJ bar longer than I’ve been alive.

Oral Argument was held on Friday, April 5th.  Both BOE Counsel Stephen J. Edelstein from the Weiner Law Group and I argued our points to Judge Catuogno.

Why am I doing this?

I have lived in Teaneck for almost 20 years.  My daughter attended the district and I’ve volunteered my time as a public servant on the Planning Board and Township Council where I had the opportunity to represent the interests of residents.  While I do not personally benefit from the outcome of this action, the case affects important issues and the lives of residents.  Principal Valdes has spent his life and career in Teaneck.  He is respected by the student body and parents and the greater community.  Among the violative meetings for which I’m asking this Court to take action to void was a December meeting in which he was removed from the high school.  While the NJ Supreme Court has indicated under a case called Polillo and the cases that followed it that even mere procedural improprieties should be found to be violative of the OPMA, the current issues before the court affect real people and deserve to be vindicated for many within the municipality.

Why not have an attorney argue this?

Continue reading “What is Kaplan v. Teaneck BOE about anyway?”

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Councilwoman Denise Belcher

Last week, an ethics complaint was filed against Councilwoman Denise Belcher in connection with an Application for a zoning variance before the Township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The property at 61 Church Street was zoned as a residential property and housed St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.  The property is 1.3 acres and a new applicant wished to use it as a school for 100 students.
[note: the property had been abandoned for many years at the time of the application]

Of note, the property was used by the Teaneck Board of Education in the 1970s (the high point in terms of Teaneck’s population) to deal with an overpopulation issue in the district (at the time the district had over 8,000+ students, more than double today’s numbers).

In response to changing demographics, the Council instituted a set of racist and hurtful rules that were specifically designed to keep new residents, such as Blacks or Orthodox Jews from getting a foothold in the township.

One of the rules required that schools would need 10 acres + 1 additional acre per 100 students.  That rule, still on the books, required the applicant to seek a waiver for the 11 acres the Building department said was necessary.

Let’s be very clear.  Compared to existing schools, the closest in terms of size would be TCCS with 1.33 acres (spot-on match) and with 350 students, they are FAR below the required space.  The 350 students alone would require FOUR ADDITIONAL acres beyond the initial 5 necessary.

Teaneck High School?  At 12.97 acres, and with 1,239 students, they would require 10 acres + an additional 12 acres = 22 acres.  Teaneck High School is  TEN ACRES too small according to the rules for which the Applicant was being held.

But being in favor of a once racist policy as soon is suits you, is merely reprehensible… not unethical according to State Ethics rules.

Sadly for Teaneck and the Applicant, that’s not where Councilwoman Belcher stopped.

Zoning Board Appearance

Councilwoman Belcher came before the Zoning Board of Adjustment as a representative of the East Votee Neighborhood Association.  The Applicant’s attorney addressed her directly twice during her remarks as “Councilwoman Belcher.” This clearly indicated that the Applicant’s attorney understood that a Member of the Township Council was opposing the Application

On February 5, 2023, three days after the first public hearing held by the Board of Adjustment concerning the Application, Councilwoman Belcher and Gervonn Rice received an email from Councilmember Mark Schwartz concerning the Application that stated “[t]he above applicant reached out to me this evening in the hopes of arranging a sit down with you both after hearing you represent the community at the Board of Adjustment meeting this past week.” (Emphasis supplied.)

On February 27, 2023, Councilwoman Belcher received an email from Vincent Brevetti, another member of the East Votee Neighborhood Association, that requested “[p]lease call me so we may discuss legal implications concerning 61 Church St.” (Emphasis supplied.)

In an email dated March 1, 2023, Councilwoman Belcher stated that “[t]his invitation is extended to you from the EVNA (East Votee Neighborhood Association) for you to attend in support of the neighbor’s effort to reject this proposed application.” (Emphasis supplied.) The email further stated that “[t]his is the second meeting since the 1st introductory meeting in February, since then the neighbors have researched and mobilized and are vehemently against this application.” (Emphasis supplied.) As used in that email, the term “neighbor” is referring to the East Votee Neighborhood Association.

What is clear from all four of these exchanges concerning the Church Street Property is that Councilwoman Belcher was acting on behalf of the East Votee Neighborhood Association in her official capacity in her active opposition to the Application. Councilwoman Belcher was not just speaking “as a neighbor in the Northeast.” See Wyzykowski v. Rizas, 132 N.J. 509

After the applicant pulled the application looking to find a home elsewhere, Councilwoman Belcher wasn’t done.  She wanted to make sure she approved of any FUTURE applicant for the property.  A message was sent by a local email list (for which previous version indicated Belcher was a Supporter) stating:

“But we’re not done! Moving forward a team of residents is partnering with the current property owner with the goal of identifying a suitable project that will enhance our neighborhood. If you are on the East Votee Neighborhood Association (EVNA) mailing list, we will keep you informed regarding any developments.”
[via Teaneck Voices where Denise Belcher was listed as a Supporter on the Masthead]

After the East Votee Neighborhood Association members were made aware that the current application was withdrawn, they stated: “First, until we know that the 61 Church Street site will be developed responsibly, in ways that preserve our neighborhood, we must remain mobilized and continue our work together. We cannot let our guard down. Whatever is proposed next, needs to be compatible with our neighborhood.”

At that point, to ensure that the new applicant for the property was approved by Belcher, she became (through her Real Estate firm) the listing agent for the property.

Any and all applicants for the property were to go through Belcher.

Let’s be clear about what this issue reveals:

A Councilwoman who appoints the members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (several members who appeared in favor of the application were not appointed a few months later), who makes zoning affecting Teaneck residents, who is working on the Master Plan which will guide zoning and variance decisions… that individual appeared on behalf of others to influence the Zoning Board against an application and then became the Agent, making thousands of dollars in commission (the building sold for $2.4M).

When you have control of zoning decisions, the ability to replace (or not replace) members of statutory boards, advocate on behalf of others and make money after stating you will ensure you approve of particular buyers and users of the property… you now have an ethics issue.

In response, Belcher said that she understands ethics and the obligation to ensure no conflicts exist.  Referring to the complaint, she stated the “targeted attacks” are simply divisive, they are hate-filled and they are discriminatory.
Ms. Belcher, you will not find a discriminatory word in the complaint, as it’s irrelevant to the manifest problems.

I suggest you read it.

Belcher Complaint with Exhibits

Kaplan v. Board of Education Oral Argument

Oral Argument in Kaplan v. Teaneck Board of Education will take place on Friday, April 5th at 2pm before Judge Catuogno

Link to Argument

What is the case about?

Violations of the Open Public Meetings Act [NJSA 10:4-6 et seq]
NJ’s Sunshine Law was passed in the 1970s and requires all State Agencies, Public Universities, Municipal Governments, and Boards of Education to follow certain requirements. The Complaint alleges that the Teaneck Board of Education has violated these requirements for many years, including recent meetings at which Principal Valdes was removed from Teaneck High School, the Board met in secret, without informing the public about discussions, and more.

Is there evidence the Board violated the OPMA?

Yes, the Board Admitted to doing so
The Board admits they violated the OPMA. In their Answer to the Court, they admit that they technically violated the Notice Requirements for the OPMA [NJSA 10:4-8(d)] for Workshop and Regular Public Meetings in paragraph 41 and they admit that they technically violated the proper notice requirements for the special meeting of December 21, 2023 (at which they removed Principal Valdes from THS) at paragraph 22

[Link to answer: Answer]

Is technical non-compliance something important?

Yes, under binding precedent, the Court may be lenient in looking at the remedy used to cure a defect, but not as to whether a defect took place.
Under Polillo v. Deane (which the Board of Ed cites in their own documents), the Supreme Court of NJ said:

The thrust of defendants’ argument is that the Court should uphold the Commission’s recommendation on the basis of its substantial compliance with the Sunshine Law. They assert (1) that there was no attempt “to meet secretly or without some notice to the public,” as found by the Appellate Division, and (2) that any meeting at which formal votes were taken complied with the Act, thereby satisfying the requirements of the law. Although, on these facts, we impute to the Commission no wrongful motivation for choosing to conduct its business as it did, lack of wrongful intent cannot excuse noncompliance with the Act. Such a reading of the statute would invite abuse and would contravene the legislative intent in enacting the provision.

Rather than providing a new exception to the rule, we believe that defendants’ suggestion would swallow the rule. Accordingly we reject this argument completely and hold that strict adherence to the letter of the law is required in considering whether a violation of the Act has occurred.
Polillo v. Deane 74 N.J. 562 (1977)

What will happen if the Plaintiff wins?

Under the NJ Open Public Meetings Act, the Judge is empowered to do two things:
  1. Void actions that were done not in accordance with the OPMA [NJSA 10:4-15]
  2. Issue an injunction [NJSA 10:4-16] that the Board must follow the rules of OPMA going forward (which can be enforced if they do not follow the rules)

What can the Board do if the actions are voided?

The Board is free at any time to re-do the actions that were done improperly [see NJSA 10:4-15]. In fact, the Board claims that they have done so (at the meeting of January 17th). This will be one of the topics of discussion at the hearing on Friday.

How does the Board Re-Do the Votes they took improperly?

If the Board does decide to re-do their decisions (e.g. the vote to remove Principal Valdes), they would have to:
  • Properly Notice a meeting
  • Send out an Agenda stating the action(s) they wish to take
  • Abide by the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act and any other applicable laws (e.g. RICE notices to affected employees)
  • Mention the information or testimony/reports from the previous discussion(s) they intend to use to form the basis for a vote
  • Since there are new members of the Board who didn’t attend the closed sessions in December, they will likely need to re-do the closed session discussion for the new members
  • Have public input (from those who did not know about the previous meeting at a minimum, but hopefully anyone who wishes to speak)

STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES

Hearing information:

The hearing before Judge Catuogno will take place on Friday, April 5th at 2pm. You can watch via the Zoom link below:
Topic: (MTD Hearing) Kaplan v. Teaneck BOE – BER-L-121-24
Time: Apr 5, 2024 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join NJCourts Virtual Courtroom
Meeting ID: 161 626 3311
Password: 010820
If anyone is interested in reading the documents in the case, they can do so here: https://www.teanecktoday.com/blog/board-of-education/litigation/ber-l-000121-24-kaplan-vs-teaneck-board-of-education/

“The Line”: Is it dead or will it be resurrected? Some Counties are already abandoning the fight. Here’s what has happened…

The Line is Dead, but this Easter, plenty of pols are hoping for a Resurrection

What has happened since Judge Quraishi’s opinion?

For those unaware: NJ has been using “the line” to ensure preferential treatment for establishment pols since the 60’s.  It works incredibly well.  There hasn’t been a pol that won “off the line” in about a decade and a half (since 2009).  You can read about the case against the line here: Abolosh The Line

Judge Zahid N. Quraishi (NJ’s First Muslim Article III Judge) ruled on Friday that the line had to go.

Some NJ Pols are… not happy about it.

Here’s what has happened since: Continue reading ““The Line”: Is it dead or will it be resurrected? Some Counties are already abandoning the fight. Here’s what has happened…”

Monday 3/18: Teaneck Schools Budget Presentation (2024-25)

Teaneck Board of Education SPECIAL MEETING for the Budget Presentation

Click to enlarge the slides:

2024-2025 Preliminary Budget Presentation

 

2023-24 Revaluation Trends for Teaneck

Revaluation 2023-24

Here’s some data from the preliminary numbers


Average Change Across Teaneck

Average Change in Assessed ValueAverage Change in Assessed ValueAverage Change in Yearly Tax paymentNumber of houses in category
$237,949.1262.08%-$51.3510,974

Check your assessments by taking a look at the links below.  Assessments are grouped by voting district.

(use the slider to see additional information)

District 1 District 2 District 3 District 4
District 5 District 6 District 7 District 8
District 9 District 10 District 11 District 12
District 13 District 14 District 15 District 16
District 17 District 18 District 19 District 20
District 21 District 22 District 23

Changes in Annual Tax Levy by Voting District

Voting DistrictNumber of PropertiesAvg. Change in Yearly Payment
1444-$113.46
2514$120.91
3508-$331.03
4566$23.19
5334$329.00
6413$46.37
7432-$0.89
8613$140.11
9548-$87.98
10591-$119.95
11492-$271.53
12544-$463.60
13474-$26.48
14619$56.20
15154$175.51
16332-$61.53
17543$125.47
18545-$60.58
19554$15.18
20366-$410.78
21571-$166.43
22408$127.88
23409-$25.13
Continue reading “2023-24 Revaluation Trends for Teaneck”

Kaplan v. Teaneck BOE

An open email to the Teaneck Board of Education and District:

BER-L-000121-24 Keith Kaplan v. Teaneck Board of Education, et al.

The Teaneck Board of Education has problems.

There’s the Federal investigation into Civil Rights Violations by the Office of Civil Rights

There’s the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression Investigation and charges of Civil Rights Violations

(First Letter from FIRE) (Second Letter from FIRE)

And now, there’s a Superior Court action for multiple violations of the Open Public Meetings Act (NJ’s signature transparency law)

I called several of the OPMA violations out at meetings, including the failure to abide by the minimum requirements of transparency–sending notice to two newspapers.  The First Amendment organization FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) has called them out for Civil Rights violations, not once, but TWICE.  And the Feds are investigating the District.

Sadly, there’s no sign that the illegal and improper activities that the Trustees of the Board of Education and the Administration in Teaneck have been engaged in, will be ending on their own.

So I have filed a Verified Complaint and an Order to Show Cause against the School District.  Today, the Order was granted by Judge Catuogno.

I do not take this step lightly.  However the law requires certain actions, and they have not been taken.  To wit: Continue reading “Kaplan v. Teaneck BOE”