Link to original WordPerfect Document

                                            87 N.J.L.J. 297
                                            May 14, 1964


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Conflict of Interests
Councilman - School Board Attorney

    The following inquiry has been submitted for our opinion:

            If one member of a law firm is a councilman in a municipality, can another member of the firm become the attorney for the board of education of the same municipality? The board of education in this municipality is an elected body and selects its own employees without any consent or approval of the municipal council.

    Under the facts stated there appears to be no conflict. The electorate of the municipality is entitled to the services of the most skilled people they can secure as councilmen. The inquirer's
partner, being an attorney, is especially equipped to serve on the council and to furnish the public the benefits of his experience, skill and training.
    In view of the autonomous character of the board of education in the inquirer's municipality, it is also entitled to the free selection of its own attorney. Under normal procedures, both the council and the board of education, under the facts submitted by the inquirer, operate as distinct and separate entities, neither having any right to interfere with the other. See Botkin v. Westwood, 52 N.J. Super. 416 (App. Div. 1958).

    A note of caution - there may arise, however, a conflict even under the governmental setup outlined by the inquirer, e.g, the transfer of non-governmental municipal lands to the board of education for school purposes; the rejection by the electorate of the school board's budget on two successive occasions whereupon the duty to fix the budget then rests upon the municipal councilmen. In instances of this nature it may be necessary for both partners to disqualify themselves to avoid a probable conflict.

* * *

This archive is a service of Rutgers University School of Law - Camden