Supreme Court rules Kean must disclose meeting minutes ‘promptly’

Thomas Infante, Union County Local Source

James Castiglione, a Kean physics professor who heads the Kean Federation of Teachers, is satisfied that the ruling will strengthen sunshine laws in place to hold public institutions accountable.
“More open transparency will always help serve the public,” Castiglione said in a July 9 telephone interview. “The ruling will help push public institutions to fulfill a broader service to the public in general by releasing minutes more promptly.”

In February 2017, the Appellate Division ruling determined that Valera Hascup, a former Kean nursing professor, was treated unfairly when the board voted to terminate her during a meeting without first sending her a Rice notice about her reappointment vote.

According to the case syllabus, Hascup received a letter from the Kean president prior to the meeting stating that she would not be nominated for reappointment. Since she was informed of this, and since the corresponding vote occurred in a public setting, the Supreme Court determined that the university was not at fault for failing to send her a Rice notice.

The ruling also ensures that public institutions will provide minutes of closed-session meetings upon request, with minimal redactions.
“The Supreme Court clearly recognized the need for this additional step of review and encourages the university and all public bodies to make sure that review and release are done in a reasonable period of time,” Smith said in her statement.

According to Castiglione, who also was a plaintiff in the case, obtaining minutes to closed-session meetings was consistently difficult in the past, and should be rectified following this ruling.
“Closed-session minutes aren’t released the day of the meeting, like for public sessions, but we are now guaranteed that we can have access to a copy of the minutes without heavy redactions,” Castiglione said.

He described the verdict as “splitting the baby,” or giving both sides what they want to an extent.

“It’s a success in getting Kean to conduct business openly,” Castiglione said. “But it’s disappointing that Kean chose to drag the case out over multiple appeals, in the process spending a lot of money that does not serve its students.”