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Senate President Blocks Martin Perez Appointment to Rutgers Board by Threatening a Lawsuit

New Board of Governors Chairman Gerald Harvey Currently Presiding Over Closed Meeting
Martin Perez
Martin Perez speaks to reporter Michael Aron earlier this year at an event endorsing Gov. Christie Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Today at 1pm, a newly-expanded Rutgers Board of Governors met for the first time to open its hearing on the 2013-2014 academic year tuition cost.

But one of its newest members, New Brunswick resident Martin Perez was conspicuously absent.  Sources say State Senate President Steve Sweeney surprised the university with the threat of a lawsuit if Perez was permitted to participate in the meeting.

Sweeney objected to Gov. Christie's appointment of Perez last December, but has been quiet since then.  Perez was chosen to fill one of four new seats added to the board as part of legislation that merged the state university with the University of Medicine & Dentistry of NJ.

"The governor has shown a reckless disregard for the law, the Rutgers Board of Governors and the people of the state of New Jersey," Sweeney's office said, according to a report on PolitickerNJ.com.  "The legislation clearly states the additional appointments to the board need to be from Camden and Essex counties. The action he announced today is in direct violation of the law."

Previously, State Senators from Middlesex County including Piscataway's Bob Smith blocked Christie's attempt to appoint Perez to one of the original eleven seats on the board using an tactic known as "senatorial courtesy."

Today's meeting is the first to be run by new chairman Gerald Harvey, a Rutgers graduate and lawyer who lives in Summit.  Former chairman Ralph Izzo, the CEO of PSE&G, will remain a voting member of the board.

Harvey was elected to serve one year as the Rutgers Board of Governors president at the annual re-organization meeting last month.

Traditionally, just over half of the seats on the board are appointed by the state governor.  The other half are selected from the 59-member Board of Trustees, which has recently been targeted by Sweeney for elimination.

The new trustee members of the Board of Governors joining today are Margaret Derrick of Upper Montclair, Lora Fong of Edison, and Dudley Rivers of West Windsor, who also serves as Global Controller for Johnson & Johnson.

Ann Gould, a faculty member, will now serve as the non-voting representative of the University Senate.  Samuel Rabinowitz will serve as the non-voting faculty representative, and Joe Cashin, a rising senior, will serve for the second consecutive year as the non-voting student representative.

UPDATE (6:38pm): Martin Perez confirmed he was informed by the university's top lawyer John Farmer that he would not be sworn into office shortly before today's meeting.

"I was ready to go to the meeting and 1/2 an hour before the meeting, I receive a phone call from John Farmer informing me that I would not be sworn in today because Sweeney was threatening the University if I was sworn in," Perez told New Brunswick Today via text message.

Rutgers University lobbyist Peter McDonough referred inquiries to the Governor's Office and Senate President's Office.