BOE Concludes Tuition Scandal Investigation. Offers Little Information.

After a series of articles published by Roselle Park News which culminated in an inependent investigation called for by the Board Of Education (BOE), the matter involving non-payment of tuition for the relative of a school principal was formally considered closed by the school board as of June 14, 2016 with very little information provided to the public.

Roselle Park News started research for an investigative report late last year in November based on anonymous correspondences it received stating that the relative of Frances Kenny, the Robert Gordon School principal, who lived out-of-district was attending Robert Gordon without paying the legally required tuition. It was not until after the newspaper submitted an OPRA request in January of this year asking for proof of payment that such tuition was paid.

Almost at the end of the regular meeting, just before the start of the second public comment portion when anyone could comment or inquire about any topic to the Board, BOE President Chris Miller read the following from a prepared statement:

In response to information brought to the Boards’ attention regarding an internal student matter on or about April 5th 2016, the Board appointed Peter B. Fallon Esq, an independent attorney, for the purpose of conducting a special district investigation. The investigation is now complete and the Board has received Mr. Fallon’s findings and recommendations. The information in the report is privileged and confidential pursuant to the attorney-client relationship and is protected pursuant to personnel privacy requirements. For these reasons, the report will not be made public. However, in an effort to bring closure to this matter for the public, the Board notes the following.

The report found that mistakes in this matter were made. The report also found that those mistakes were addressed and rectified. The Board fully discussed Mr. Fallon’s findings and recommendations, internally addressed the matter as recommended by Mr. Fallon’s report, and appropriate action has been taken. From the moment this matter was brought to the Board’s attention, the Board took this matter very seriously, responded promptly, and has now completed its due diligence with respect to the matter. The Board now considers this matter closed. Thank you.

Mr. Miller made no other statements nor was any other information relayed to the public.

Roselle Park News has requested a copy of invoices and other documents related to the investigation. Due to the fact that the public interest was harmed in the public’s confidence that the administration was unable – or unwilling – to act until information that, apparently, was not available to the BOE was made public in news articles, the newspaper will also proceed with all legal means available to obtain the report in the interest of the public.

Even though the report might not be available under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), such information has been obtained in the past in New Jersey through a common law right of access claim where the interests of the public outweigh such exemptions covered by OPRA.