School Ethics Commission
NEW! 2013 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT FILING DISCLOSURE STATEMENTS
I. STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS TO FILE
Q1. What are the School Ethics Commission Disclosure Statements?
A. The School Ethics Commission Disclosure Statements are forms created by the Commission pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:12-25 and 26 that all school officials must annually file with the county office. There are two parts to the statement. The first part, the Personal/Relative Disclosure Statement, discloses certain personal information, as well as information regarding the school official’s relatives. The second part, the Financial Disclosure Statement, discloses certain financial information.
Q2. What is the deadline for filing the Disclosure Statements?
A. The School Ethics Act states that each school official must annually file the Personal/Relative and Financial Disclosure Statements by April 30th. New school officials (those taking office after April 30th) must file within 30 days of their appointment or election. All school officials are expected to file disclosure statements. Charter school trustees and administrators must initially file disclosure statements within 30 days of the grant of a charter. Thereafter, any newly-appointed trustee has 30 days from appointment to file. After the charter school has been established, the filings are required to be filed by April 30th, as with the other school officials.
Q3: When are board members who are elected in spring elections expected to file Personal/Relative and Financial Disclosure Statements?
A. These newly elected board members who take office after April 30th must have their names added to the School Ethics Commission June-December List of School Officials and file their disclosure statements within 30 days from swearing in as board members.
Q4: When do board members who are elected in November elections file their Personal/Relative and Financial Disclosure Statements?
A. The school board members who are newly-elected in November elections and who are sworn in as board members in January must have their names added to the School Ethics Commission’s annual February List of School Officials and must file their Personal/Relative and Financial Disclosure Statements by April 30th.
II. WHO MUST FILE
Q1: Who is required to file the disclosure statements?
A: “School Official” means a board member, a member of the board of trustees of a charter school, an administrator of a local school board or charter school or an employee or officer of the New Jersey School Boards Association, but not including any member of the secretarial, clerical or maintenance of the Association. “Administrator” means any officer, other than a board member or trustee, or employee of a local school district who: (i) holds a position which requires a certificate that authorizes the holder to serve as school administrator, principal, or school business administrator; or (ii) holds a position which does not require that the person hold any type of certificate but is responsible for making recommendations regarding hiring or the purchase or acquisition of any property or services by the local school district; or (iii) holds a position which requires a certificate that authorizes the holder to serve as supervisor and who is responsible for making recommendations regarding hiring or the purchase or acquisition of any property or services by the local school district. N.J.S.A. 18A:12-23. These provisions apply to an administrator and member of the board of trustees of a charter school. N.J.S.A. 18A:12-23.1.
Q2: Must board attorneys file disclosure statements?
A: Board attorneys employed by private firms are not school officials required to file disclosure statements. Board attorneys who are employees of the district or charter school and who fall within the definition of “administrator” must file the disclosure statements. The Commission so advised in Advisory Opinion A15-99 http://www.state.nj.us/education/legal/ethics/advisory/cat7/.
Q3: If a school official serves in more than one district/charter school, must s/he file statements in both entities?
A: Yes. It is likely that the school official’s information on the Personal/Relative Disclosure Statement for each district/charter school will be different.
Q4: Does an interim, per diem school administrator who is not considered an employee of the school district/charter school have to file the disclosure statements?
A: Yes, as long as that person falls within the definition of “administrator” in N.J.S.A. 18A:12-23.
Q5: What if the interim, per diem, school administrator serves only a portion of the 2013 calendar year?
A: That person must file the disclosure statements where s/he is an administrator during any part of the 2013 calendar year.
Q6: If a school official who was employed in a district/charter school or served as a school board member/trustee in 2012 leaves prior to, or as of December 31, 2012, should that school official file the disclosure statements on or before April 30, 2013?
A: No. That person is not an administrator or school board member/trustee during the time period when the disclosure statements are required to be filed.
Q7: If a school official is employed in a district/charter school or serves as a member/trustee of a school board in 2012 and part of 2013, but leaves prior to April 30, 2013, should that school official file the disclosure statements on or before April 30, 2013?
A: Yes, because that person served or worked in the district/charter school during the 2013 calendar year, the statements should be on file with the county office.
Q8. If a board member is not re-elected in April 2013, does s/he have to file the disclosure statements?
A: Yes, as long as that board member served during a portion of the 2013 calendar year, the statements must be filed.
Q9: Does a board member who served in 2013 and filed the disclosure statements prior to the April 30 deadline have to file again if s/he is re-elected to the board in spring of 2013?
A: No. That board member has already fulfilled the requirement to file the disclosure statements for the 2013 calendar year.
Q10: When does a charter school trustee’s term of office begin?
A: When the trustee is sworn in at the first meeting of the Board of Trustees, which would occur after the Commissioner of Education has approved the charter. The Board of Trustees should maintain minutes which indicate when each member’s term begins and ends.
Q11: Does a school official have to file disclosure statements if that school official is on an approved leave?
A: Where a school official is on approved leave at the time that s/he is required to file, the Board Secretary/Charter School Designee should duly notify the county office of this approved leave. The school official does not have to file by April 30, but must file the disclosure statements when s/he returns from leave.
III. COMPLETION OF THE STATEMENTS
Q1. How do I complete the Disclosure Statements?
A. School officials must provide an answer to every question. For those that are not applicable, please indicate “N/A.” However, an indication of N/A in the financial section of the form is unacceptable since everyone has a source of income. All sources of income above $2,000 must be included in the form.
Q2. Why does the form ask for 2012 information when it is being completed in 2013?
A: The School Ethics Act requires that financial disclosures pertain to “the preceding calendar year.” N.J.S.A. 18A:12-26. Therefore, the Financial Disclosure Statement must provide information for the 2012 year. The statute does not, however, specify the same “look back” requirement for the Personal/Relative Disclosure Statement. Therefore, the Personal/Relative Disclosure Statement must include information current with the calendar year.
Q3: If a school official has a relative who, on occasion, substitute teaches for the district/charter school, must that be reported on the Personal/Relative Disclosure Statement?
A: Yes. The substitute teacher is receiving compensation from the district/charter school.
Q4. Do members of my local board of education have to disclose their business interests?
A. Yes. The School Ethics Act requires that all school officials disclose their business interests in the disclosure statements, as well as those of their relatives who have positions in the school district/charter school.
Q5: What information must a board member/trustee disclose about his/her relatives?
A: The School Ethics Act requires that a board member/trustee disclose: (1) whether any relative of the school official or any person related by marriage is employed by the district/charter school, as well as the name of such person(s); (2) whether the school official or a relative is a party to a contract with the district/charter school and, if so, the nature of the contract; and (3) whether the school official or a relative is employed by, receives any compensation from, or has any interest in, any business which is a party to a contract with the school district/charter school with which the school official holds office or employment and, if so, the name of each such business. N.J.S.A. 18A:12-25.
Q6: On the Financial Disclosure Statement at Section I, item 2, must a school official report that his/her child is receiving a scholarship?
A: Scholarship information need not be reported unless the funding is coming from the district/charter school or from some entity/organization that has ties to the district/charter school.
Q7: If the district/charter school pays for the conference registration and hotel directly with district/charter school purchase orders and no reimbursement of the school official takes place, must that be reported?
A: Yes. The statute requires the reporting of “prepaid expenses.” N.J.S.A. 18A:12-26a.
Q8. Do school officials have to list their attendance at training and conferences on their financial disclosure forms under fees/honorariums, gifts/reimbursements or prepaid expenses?
A. If they were reimbursed for an amount greater than $250.00, then they must list their board/charter school board as a source of the reimbursement. Additionally, use of the term “prepaid expenses” in the statute suggests that the school official should include expenses (over $250) that are paid directly to a hotel or other entity via purchase order.
Q9. Do school officials whose income is client-based, such as accountants and attorneys, have to list their clients as sources of income?
A. No. The School Ethics Act provides that individual client fees, customer receipts or commissions on transactions received through a business organization need not be separately reported as sources of income. The source of a person’s income is the business for which they work.
Q10. If someone prepares the statements for the school official, who should sign?
A: The school official must sign the statements; in so doing s/he affirms the accuracy of the contents and certifies that the disclosure statements contain no willful misstatement or omission of material fact and constitute a full disclosure with respect to all matters required by N.J.S.A. 18A:12-21 et seq.
IV. FILING, RETENTION AND ACCESSABILITY
Q1: What happens when the Superintendent or Board Secretary indicates that a school official’s disclosure statements were filed with the Executive County Superintendent’s office, but the statements are not in the Executive County Superintendent’s Office?
A: Disclosure statements are not considered “filed” unless the originals are in the county office. Therefore, if the originals cannot be located, they must be resubmitted. The original disclosure statements must be date-stamped by the Board Secretary/Charter School Designed when the school official submits them so that the county office can be sure that the statements were duly submitted through the local Board Secretary/Charter School Designee.
Q2. May the county office accept a faxed copy of the disclosure statements?
A: No. Disclosure statements are not considered filed until the original is filed with the county office. Thus, faxing the disclosure statements to the county office does not fulfill the requirement to file an original of the disclosure statements with the county office.
Q3: How long does a school district/charter school have to retain a record of the disclosure statements? What about the county office?
A: Copies of the disclosure statements which are maintained in the school district/charter school must be retained for three years. The originals, which are maintained in the county office must be retained for six years.
Q4. Who may view the disclosure statements?
A. Once filed, the disclosure statements are public records that are accessible to any member of the public.
Q5. How do I obtain a copy of a school official’s disclosure statement?
A. Original disclosure statements are maintained at the county offices of education. Each school board and charter school is required to maintain a copy. You may view the statements upon request, and these offices may have procedures that require payment of a small fee for the copy.