With the curiosity one might have watching a slow-motion wreck, GA's watched an aspirant to public office destroy his dream in a stunning display of online rantings and boorish behavior at public meetings.
All that aside, his latest salvo at an HHA Commissioner raises serious questions about the mishandling of BoE closed session information- and violation of a public employee's right to privacy under RICE. The first, misconduct of a Board member; the Board member appears to have leaked closed session information to his "right hand man" for disclosure at a public meeting at which the Board member is an official. The NJDOE School Ethics Commission code of ethics addresses the misuse of such information here:
18A:12-24. Conflicts of interestAny witness to the disclosure of such closed session information (by the "right hand man" of a Board member disclosing information he only could have gotten from that Board member) may file an ethics complaint to the NJDOE School Ethics Commission.
No school official shall use, or allow to be used, his public office or employment, or any information, not generally available to the members of the public, which he receives or acquires in the course of and by reason of his office or employment, for the purpose of securing financial gain for himself, any member of his immediate family, or any business organization with which he is associated;
18A:12-29 Complaint procedures.As for the Rice violation, that puts the Hoboken School Board in the cross-hairs for a law suit. Unless the public employee has waived her RICE right to privacy regarding discussion of her employment with the District. And she has not.
Any person, including a member of the commission, may file a complaint alleging a violation of the provisions of this act or the Code of Ethics for School Board Members as set forth in section 5 of P.L.2001, c.178 (C.18A:12-24.1), by submitting it, on a form prescribed by the commission, to the commission. No complaint shall be accepted by the commission unless it has been signed under oath by the complainant. If a member of the commission submits the complaint, the member shall not participate in any subsequent proceedings on that complaint in the capacity of a commission member. If a commission member serves on the school board of, or is employed by, the school district which employs or on whose board the school official named in the complaint serves, the commission member shall not participate in any subsequent proceedings on that complaint.
The “Rice Notice” exception to the Open Public Meetings Act is found at N.J.S.A. 10:4-12b(8). It states that a public body may go into closed session when discussing: “Any matter involving the employment, appointment, termination of employment, terms and conditions of employment, evaluation of the performance of, promotion or disciplining of any specific prospective public officer or employee or current public officer or employee employed or appointed by the public body, unless all the individual employees or appointees whose rights could be adversely affected request in writing that such matter or matters be discussed at a public meeting.”
Courts have held this to apply to both current and future employees, and to apply in issues involving discussions of qualifications, hiring, firing, promotion, etc.
Now, Mr. Branco writes: "I was asking HHA Commissioner Burell who happens to be a public official, a question about her employment and certain actions that had been taken against her. Which I think needs to be made public."
Branco ADMITS the information he knows is NOT PUBLIC.
WHO leaked to this teacher's personnel closed session information to Branco?
Branco tightens the noose around the leaky Board member's neck: "Unless I’m wrong she does not have an expectation of privacy since she is a public official, and employed by the tax payers of Hoboken..."
You ARE wrong. According to the laws which govern every public employee in Hoboken, including those you and your buddy don't like.
Clearly, there is no way that Mr. Branco should know anything about HHA Commissioner, Judy Burrell's employment matters- her name never appeared on a BoE agenda. That personnel matter was discussed in closed session. Yet Branco tells us that he knows about her, and plans to make her information PUBLIC. He threatens Burrell right here:
Unbelievable. Branco will never, ever be seriously considered for a public position after his conduct online and in public for the last 2 weeks. Now he's outed his friend as being the likely source of information which he should not know, and moreover, threatens a public employee of our district with public disclosure.
It really is shocking.
And one may also note the irony that this assault on Burrell's privacy is to protect supervision and auditing of his friend, Executive Director Carmelo Garcia's management of the HHA.
Why is the push-back so fierce? Something smells.