Lawsuit challenging school board’s vote dismissed by Superior Court judge

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The decision by the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education to extend the district’s send-relationship with Cranbury has survived a legal test.

On Sept. 27, a state Superior Court judge sitting in Trenton threw out a lawsuit a Princeton couple filed in a bid to invalidate the vote the board took earlier this year to renew the send-receive agreement until 2030.

Joel Schwartz and Corrine O’Hara claimed in their lawsuit that there was a violation of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act because the board had voted electronically, while “members of the public were neither made aware of how each board member voted nor what the final vote was … .”

District administrators said the vote was posted on the screen behind where board members sit in their meeting room.

“It was such a ridiculous suit,” Princeton board President Patrick Sullivan said on Sept. 28. “I didn’t ever think it was ever going to amount to anything.”

Sullivan pointed to legal costs of more than $10,000 to defend the district against that lawsuit and “thousands more” involving another legal challenge to the Cranbury agreement that Schwartz and O’Hara brought in September with the state Commissioner of Education.

“Mr. Schwartz is spending thousands of the taxpayers’ dollars on frivolous suits that have nothing to do with education, nothing to do with our kids and which have no merit whatsoever,” Sullivan said.

Schwartz said on Sept. 28 that he and O’Hara had not decided whether they would appeal the ruling. In a statement, the couple defended their decision to sue.

“We respect the judge’s opinion, though we disagree with it,” they said. “We continue to believe our original cause of action was correct and that transparency in government is essential. If people attending a public meeting are unable to know, in the moment, how their elected representatives vote, why bother to hold public voting at all?

“Even the judge said she was unable to comprehend from the video of the June 12 meeting how the members of the board voted,” they said. “No proofs were offered to the court by the board that any member of the public was able to know in the moment how the members of the board voted.”

Princeton and Cranbury have had an agreement since the early 1990s for Cranbury students of high school age to attend Princeton High School, a deal that will last until the end of June 2030 based on the vote the Princeton board took in June. Cranbury will pay Princeton $4.8 million in tuition for some 280 students for the current academic year.

Cranbury Board of Education President Karen Callahan said on Oct. 1 that she was “happy the judge dismissed the lawsuit.”

“With this now behind them, the Princeton board can continue to focus on the important work ahead with the referendum,” she said.