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Rutgers alumnus and mayoral candidate sues members on Board of Governors

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A Rutgers alumnus has taken legal action against five members from the University’s Board of Governors.  

Charlie Kratovil, the editor of New Brunswick Today — a paper he began in 2011 — and a Class of 2009 graduate, filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court of New Jersey on June 11 claiming that five members on the board are in violation of the New Jersey First Act.

The bill states that any person holding an office, employment or position instrumental to the State — this includes state colleges and universities — must maintain a principal residence in New Jersey, according to the act.

Kratovil asserts that Mark Angelson, Gregory Brown, Susan McCue, Joseph Rigby and Sandy Stewart have failed to meet the exemptions that would allow one to maintain principal residency out of state while still holding said position and have illegally done so over the last year, according to a transcript of the lawsuit obtained by The Daily Targum. 

The act was first introduced in 2011 per the discretion of former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). While the bill states that most any person holding office in New Jersey government, or someone who is in some way involved with the state and its related entities, must maintain their residency in-state, those who held a position prior to the act’s introduction and have a critical need qualify for exemption.

Kratovil states that none of the accused held their position prior to enactment of the bill nor did they request an exemption on the basis of critical need or hardship, according to his own analysis of committee public meeting agendas and minutes. 

The residency requirement also stipulates that it does not apply to any person who is employed by the University, whether full time, part-time or on a semesterly basis, and basically serves an educational purpose. 

These individuals are included in a yearly report reviewed and revised by the first of January each year. Kratovil states that the most recent report dates to Jan. 9 of this year and does not mention the public officer positions on the board. 

University Spokesperson Dory Devlin said that the New Jersey First Act has never applied to members of the board who are appointed by the governor or by the Board of Trustees, pursuant to the Rutgers Act, according to an email to the Targum. 

Kratovil is a community organizer and recently announced his candidacy for mayor of New Brunswick running against the incumbent James Cahill who has held the position since 1991.  

“For at least the past year, each of the defendants has failed to have their principal residency in the State and, as such, are illegally holding positions as members of the Rutgers University Board of Governors,” Kratovil said in the lawsuit transcript. “Defendants' failure to have a principle in this State is in violation of N.J.S.A. 52:14-7, which states that, as a remedy for its violation, ‘the Superior Court … shall give judgment of ouster against (violators) upon the complaint of any officer or citizen of the State.” 

In a post made on “Clean Up New Brunswick,” a page dedicated to Kratovil’s work and political agenda, he states that on its June 12 meeting, the board announced Rigby’s resignation by the end of June. Devlin said that there was no such public statement made regarding Rigby’s resignation from the Board of Governors. 

She added that a majority of the board members in question received approval of nomination to their respective positions per the discretion of Christie. The transcript confirms, citing letters that show two of the members, Rigby and Brown, were endorsed by Christie for approval and re-appointment of their positions. 

Devlin said that the Rutgers Act provides the only residency requirement for Board of Governors members and only specifies residency requirements for four board members in select New Jersey counties. She stated that the residencies of all members appointed by Christie were known at the time of their appointment and when they were approved by members of the N.J. State Senate. 

“The residency act did not alter the authority of the governor or Board of Trustees with respect to the appointment of Rutgers board members, nor could it have without the express consent of the Rutgers governing boards,” she said. 

Christian Zapata

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