Judge: Mayor Candidate’s Lawsuit Against Rutgers Board Members Can Proceed

Charlie Kratovil Calls on Governor to Ask For Resignations From Out-of-State Board Members

New Brunswick Mayor candidate Charlie Kratovil’s lawsuit seeking to remove four members of the Rutgers University Board of Governors can proceed following a Judge’s denial of a motion to dismiss the case.

Kratovil, an alumnus of the university and founder of the New Brunswick Today newspaper, filed a civil action on June 11 (docket #MER-L-1254-18) asking the Court to oust five out-of-state members illegally holding positions on the powerful board in violation of a 2011 state statute.  It was announced the following day that Joseph Rigby, a board member who resides in Maryland, would resign his position.

Hon. Mary C. Jacobson, the Assignment Judge in Mercer County, issued an August 6 order denying an attempt to dismiss the suit and requiring that the other four board members file a responsive pleading to the litigation on or before September 10.

“I was pleased to learn that Judge Jacobson has ordered the defendants to respond to the merits of my lawsuit,” said Kratovil.  “In an effort to delay their ultimate day of reckoning, these illegal office-holders had attempted to have this case thrown out on a technicality, only to back off and ultimately concede that the Judge should deny their motion.”

The Court’s order comes as the Rutgers administration is under fire for spending over $11.5 million on “golden parachutes” for ex-officials who were fired or quit their jobs, the abrupt departure of its New Brunswick Chancellor, and criminal scandals involving current and former members of the university’s football team.

But it’s not just student athletes who are accused of breaking the law.  In 2011, then-Governor Chris Christie signed the residency requirement law, NJSA 52:14-7 (also known as the “NJ First Act”), yet he subsequently appointed several members to the Rutgers Board who did not live in New Jersey and had no intention of moving here.

According to Rutgers’ own website, four members of board, including its Chair and Vice Chair, still maintain their primary residence out-of-state:

Chairman Sandy Stewart (New Hill, NC)
Vice Chairman Mark Angelson (New York, NY)
Gregory Brown (Barrington Hills, IL)
Susan McCue (Alexandria, VA)

Each out-of-state board member had one year from the date that they took office to re-locate to New Jersey before they became eligible for removal under the law.

“Chris Christie signed this act to punish rank-and-file public workers, but he apparently felt that his own political appointees were above the law and could just ignore it,” said Kratovil, who is currently campaigning to become New Brunswick’s 63rd Mayor.  “If municipal public officials like our teachers and firefighters must abide by this law, then certainly the appointees who run our state university should have to follow it as well.”

“We desperately need new leadership at Rutgers, and I am urging Governor Phil Murphy to ask for the immediate resignation of these illegal office-holders so that qualified individuals who are ready and eligible to serve our community can be selected from among the 9 million residents of New Jersey and installed without further delay.”

The board’s hands-off approach was evident at their July 24 special meeting, where a 20-year agreement with RWJBarnabas Health was approved over the objection of unions representing thousands of Rutgers employees, without any voting members of the Board of Governors physically present.

Ten voting members, including three of the defendants in the lawsuit, were supposedly on the conference call.  However, the board refused to take a roll call vote on the measure despite a point of order raised by Kratovil, leaving it a mystery which board members actually voted for the deal.

Eight voting members are required to be “in attendance” for the Board of Governors to have a quorum, meaning that the controversial deal hinges on the questionable votes of the out-of-state members.