As summer winds down, the first whispers of fall rippling through cool evening breezes are a welcome reminder that school is back in session. That means it’s an opportune time for Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts and many charter schools to examine their policies governing employee reporting of arrests and convictions and their handling of arrest and conviction reports.

Pennsylvania has long required that school district employees self-report arrests or convictions for many common offenses (e.g. kidnapping, endangering the welfare of children, sexual abuse of children, etc.). The law prohibits schools from hiring applicants with certain offenses, and requires immediate discharge of teachers/educators who are convicted of or who plead guilty to those same offenses.  In addition to the obvious violent crimes and crimes against children, PA law also requires self-reporting for all felony, first-degree misdemeanor, first-degree misdemeanor or felony DUI, and controlled substance-related offenses. The reporting requirement applies to all current and prospective employees of public and private schools, intermediate units, and vocational-technical schools, including independent contractors and their employees who have direct contact with children.

Obviously, in light of the potential consequences, employees were not really motivated to report arrests for these offenses.  For those employees who may have hoped to remain undetected following a reportable arrest or conviction, life just got a little harder. Thanks to a recently-implemented notification system, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (“PDE”) is now automatically notified by the Pennsylvania Justice Network (“JNET”) when an educator is arrested. Once notified, the PDE sends a notification to the Teachers Information Management System (“TIMS”) and the chief school administrator for the school in which the educator is employed. Once notified, the TIMS officer and administrator receive frequent reminders until the administrator acknowledges the arrest.

The chief administrative officer is then required to review the pending criminal charge. Importantly, the chief school administrator will be given access to a broader range of information than they would have if they were relying solely on the employee to self-report. The notifications sent from JNET to TIMS and the chief administrative officer include arrests, indictments, and charges that do not require self-reporting. For example, a second-degree misdemeanor may not otherwise be reported, but would come through JNET to the school district just the same as an arrest for a more serious offense.  As a result, school districts are becoming aware of potentially unflattering information about their employees they may otherwise never have received. Of course, an arrest is public information, and where school districts would formerly rely on the local newspaper’s “police roundup” section, they are now given convenient, broad access to such information on employees.

It is important for school districts to be mindful of their use of this information when making an employment decision. The school district must balance its obligations as an employer and duty to protect the integrity and safety of the educational institutions with the procedural and substantive due process rights of its public employees. The school district may also have obligations pursuant to a union contract or other contract.  As a result, any potential employment action in response to a report should be accompanied by thorough documentation and consultation with counsel.

Although school districts should already have a procedure in place for how to deal with teacher arrests, now would be a good time to review that procedure and determine if any updates are necessary.  Also, a procedure regarding how to process and handle the TIMS reports should be considered.

The IRS recently announced that it will be issuing guidance in the near future on the elimination of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). The guidance, long-awaited by the municipal finance industry, is expected to address under what circumstances a reissuance will occur when a floating rate bond using LIBOR as the reference rate is modified to another reference rate. Continue Reading IRS Finalizing Guidance on Tax Impact of LIBOR Phaseout

In a case that may have implications for any government entity that has an application process related to permit and license issuance, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently issued a decision in P.L.C.B. v. Beh, No. 91 C.D. 2018, No. 153 C.D. 2018 (Pa. Commw. Ct. July 17, 2019), concerning whether residential and financial information contained in liquor license applications must be disclosed to the public. Continue Reading Commonwealth Court, Citing Right to Privacy, Shields Residency Information from Disclosure Under Right to Know Law

Did you know the right to eminent domain goes as far back as the Magna Carta? Eminent domain is hardly new news, and as such recent game changing cases regarding the subject are few and far between.  The last major eminent domain case decided by the United States Supreme Court was Kelo v. the City of New London (2006), which held that an entity clothed with the power of eminent domain was permitted to acquire property merely to resell it to a private entity.  Kelo had an enormous impact on many states, and here in Pennsylvania the case spurred the adoption of the Property Rights Protection Act, which aimed at preventing a repeat of the events that lead to Kelo.  The recent decision of Knick v. Township of Scott is likely to have just as great of an impact on litigants. Continue Reading How The Recent U.S. Supreme Court Case Of Knick v. Township Of Scott Could Be Buying Everyone More Trips To The Federal Courthouse

Now that most of the dust has settled on the 2019/2020 budget, municipal and Authority water, wastewater and storm water system service providers should note that the Fiscal Code provides a funding opportunity. Continue Reading Fiscal Code Provides Potential Funding for Water, Sewer and Storm Water Projects

On May 7, 2019, the City of Baltimore discovered that its integral systems were the subject of a ransomware attack, breaching the City’s phone systems, emails, documents and critical operational databases, affecting roughly 10,000 City computers. The City notified the F.B.I. and took offline as many other systems as possible to prevent the spread of the cyberattack, but not before the malicious software locked and encrypted many of the City’s systems. The hackers responsible for the attack demanded thirteen bitcoins (approximately $100,000), as ransom, to release the City’s inaccessible databases and operational tools. In a move intended to disincentive future attacks, Baltimore rejected hackers’ demands and did not pay the ransom. Continue Reading Ransomware Attacks Targeting Cities and Municipalities

The Internal Revenue Service recently released Notice 2019-39, clarifying the scope of permitted current refundings of bonds issued under special governmental bond programs. Issuers may rely on this Notice to issue tax-exempt bonds to currently refund any bonds that are issued pursuant to such targeted programs, subject to some limitations. Continue Reading IRS Blesses Current Refundings of Targeted Government Bond Programs (With Limits)

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently signed into law Act 4 of 2019 (HB 264), which amends section 12 of the Municipality Authorities Act, 53 Pa.C.S. 5612, to establish minimum standards for an Authority’s financial and operating procedures. Act 4 received unanimous support in both the House and the Senate.

Act 4 makes a number of noteworthy changes to Section 12 of the Authorities Act. A brief summary of those changes follows:

  • Mandates the use of generally accepted accounting principles in the establishment of billing and collection procedures;
  • Prohibits the acceptance of payments in the name of an individual on behalf of the Authority;
  • Requires that an Authority’s annual financial report be submitted on a form prepared by the Department of Community and Economic Development, as well as the Authority’s incorporating municipality and any other municipality has has residents served by the Authority;
  • Extends the deadline to file the annual financial report to 180 days from the end of the fiscal year, from the previous 90 days; and
  • Requires that the Authority’s annual report and audit be discussed at a public meeting and formally accepted by a vote of the Authority board.

Act 4 establishes minimum standards; nothing prevents an Authority from approving more stringent standards in its financial procedures.

Most of Act 4’s changes go into effect immediately; the changes to the annual reporting procedures go into effect 180 days after passage.

 

A group of elected officials in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate have reintroduced a series of bills making significant changes to the process by which municipalities in Pennsylvania incur debt. The introduction of these bills has become a biennial occurrence; since the 2013-2014 legislative session, similar bills have been introduced, calling for such changes. None of the prior proposals have been enacted into law.

The bills that have been introduced in the 2019-2020 legislative session primarily consist of two packages – one in the House and one in the Senate. The package of reform proposals in the House can be found at House Bills 882-884. The package of reform proposals in the Senate can be found at Senate Bills 204-210. One proposal was introduced as House Bill 320, and is a standalone measure addressing interest rate swaps. We’ve included in this post links to each bill, so that you can monitor the status of the bills. Continue Reading Slate of Municipal Debt Reform Proposals Reintroduced in PA House, Senate

On February 19, 2019, a bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate proposing to amend the Pennsylvania Breach of Personal Information Notification Act (the “Act”) to add new breach notification requirements for state agencies and political subdivisions of the Commonwealth. Continue Reading Senate Bill Proposes New Data Breach Notification Requirements for Pennsylvania State Agencies, Municipalities, and School Districts