Sayreville school board motion dismisses claims of salary withholdings by mayor who works at middle school

gavel, law books, court system, justice

SAYREVILLE – The Sayreville School District Board of Education has filed a motion to dismiss legal action from Sayreville Mayor Victoria Kilpatrick over allegations that her salary increment as a district teacher was improperly withheld.

Kilpatrick, who is a language arts teacher at Sayreville Middle School, filed her complaint in New Jersey Superior Court on July 30. The complaint follows a board vote on June 15 that withheld her salary increment and employment adjustment increment for the 2021-22 school year.

On Sept. 15, the Board of Education filed a motion to dismiss Kilpatrick’s complaint. A decision on the board’s motion is scheduled to be made on Oct. 22.

As noted in the complaint, Kilpatrick had exercised her right to have her employment discussed in public instead of private. Board members did not discuss the salary increment withholding prior to their vote; the complaint alleges that they were required to do so.

In her complaint, Kilpatrick is requesting an order that finds the board’s action on her to be void due to the alleged Open Public Meetings Act (OPRA) violation. Kilpatrick is also requesting an order requiring the board to provide back pay and other benefits that resulted from the vote to withhold her 2021-22 salary increment.

However, the motion alleges that the board was not required to discuss the salary increment before voting on the issue. It also alleges that Kilpatrick is not entitled to back pay under OPRA and because Kilpatrick initiated proceedings currently pending before the Public Employees Relationship Commission (PERC), she should not proceed with her complaint before she exhausts her pending administrative remedies.

The motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, which will prevent it from being filed again, is based upon an alleged failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. As stated, such a motion must be granted if a reading of allegations does not reveal a legal basis for recovery.

As alleged in the motion, state statute does not require a discussion to take place by a public body prior to voting on a public employee’s employment. The motion argues that the statute required any discussions over Kilpatrick’s employment to be held in public, but only if there was a discussion, and the motion states that there was not.

“[The] statute makes no mention of the requirement for a discussion by the board as alleged in plaintiff’s complaint,” the motion reads. “In this matter, no discussion, private or public, was had by the board regarding plaintiff’s employment and no discussion was required. Hence, since the board had no discussion regarding the withholding of plaintiff’s salary increment, plaintiff’s argument is moot and plaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as she has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

The motion also cites statute in arguing that the complaint is not ripe for consideration by the court because by having a pending request before the PERC, Kilpatrick has not exhausted her pending administrative remedies. Kilpatrick filed a request for a panel of arbitrators with the PERC on June 28, according to the motion.

“[Kilpatrick] should not be permitted to proceed with her complaint filed in Superior Court prior to exhausting her pending administrative remedies before the PERC or the Commissioner of Education,” the motion reads. “The ability to pursue administrative remedies exists and must be pursued prior to filing suit in Superior Court. Accordingly, plaintiff’s complaint should be dismissed as same is not ripe for consideration.”