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Chris Christie’s 18 State Secrets

Thursday, January 30, 2014

WNYC
Gov. Christie has denied haveing any knowledge of the lane closures. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

The release of subpoenaed documents that exposed the Christie Administration's involvement in Bridgegate show how the Governor's Office has been keeping its decisions and expenditures quiet despite laws that require official business to be made public. Here's 18 ways Christie and his officials have blocked access to information.

  1. The governor’s office won’t say how much taxpayers are spending on the attorney representing Christie in various abuse-of-power investigations. Democratic legislators are spending $350-an-hour. The Bergen Record has filed suit.
  2. Who paid for a trip that the governor took to Dallas last year? What were his expenses while there? And what other cities did he go to on his trip? The invoices provided, viewable here, were unclear as to where the governor went, what his expenses were, and how much taxpayers had to pay. A separate request to the State Police on the cost of his security detail was denied outright. A lawsuit has been filed.
  3. Christie’s commissioner of Community Affiars, Richard Constable III, has ignored questions about why the state fired a $68 million contractor responsible for distributing $780 million in Sandy housing aid. He has refused to provide a copy of the $10.5 million termination settlement given to the contractor, nor has he said what company, if any, is taking over the distribution of the aid.
  4. Emails from Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak’s government email account were not provided when requested by The Record, which was investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures. Legislative subpoenas uncovered the documents and found that the governor’s office was intentionally or unintentionally violating the Open Public Records Act.
  5. Christie’s office maintains no lists of visitors to the governor’s mansion, the gubernatorial beach house on the Jersey Shore or the complimentary 20-person suite at Giants and Jets games. Without lists, there are no documents for reporters to request.
  6. New Jersey Transit refused to release its hurricane preparedness plan after Sandy flooded rail cars and caused $120 million in damage. The transportation commissioner didn't show up at a hearing when the legislature launched an investigation.
  7. The State Police would not release overtime data nor copies of its own policies. The ACLU then sued.
  8. Lawsuits are required for information that should be provided through the Open Public Records Act. A Feb. 11 request to the Department of Treasury for the bid documents for Sandy contractors wasn’t filled until May 20. An identical document, though, was received by the affordable-housing advocacy group, the Fair Share Housing Center, on April 24, because it sued.
  9. Requests for documents are often rejected by anonymous government officials. Christie record keepers would not provide the Bergen Record with names of the government employees who act as the legally-mandated “Records Custodians” in each Christie department.
  10. The government’s financial contracts and bids for services are often heavily redacted because the companies involved are given the opportunity to black out whatever information they want.
  11. New Jersey voters approved $1.3 billion last November for capital projects at state colleges and universities. But after two politically-connected religious institutions got funds, the Christie administration refused to publicly disclose the criteria it used in its selection process. Higher Education Secretary Rochelle Hendricks testified before a senate committee, but refused to talk about the matter.
  12. Christie officials wouldn’t disclose the names of those who evaluated bids from contractors that sought to create Sandy tourism ads. The committee ultimately hired a more expensive contractor that gave Christie a starring role in the “Stronger Than the Storm” TV ad campaign.  
  13. Christie created a Sandy transparency web site, but it does not appear to be regularly updated. A $68 million contract for a company to develop a housing program wasn’t online months after the company was hired.
  14. Invoices for a Sandy contractor were blacked out so extensively that the Bergen Record filed suit.
  15. A housing advocacy group was denied data to help it determine whether low-income and minority New Jerseyans were getting a fair share of the $1.8 billion in federal Sandy aid. The group filed suit.
  16. When Christie privatized the $2.8 billion lottery, his state treasurer refused to testify to Democrats to answer questions about why the privatization was being carried out.
  17. Christie’s Treasury Department allegedly violated the state constitution when it didn’t include key information on a tax revenue report that Christie himself had mandated through an executive order when he took office. The treasurer has also repeatedly missed a deadline on issuing revenue reports, while a promised citizens commission on financial transparency was never set up.
  18. The Department of Education would not give the Asbury Park Press a list of schools the state was investigating for possibly tampering with state tests. The newspaper sued.

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Comments [20]

Katie

Shout-out to Hyper.
The despoiling of the Palisades is an issue near and dear to my heart.
More vigorous coverage of the proposed LG tower would help because few people know of the eyesore this multinational corp plans for our beloved Palisades, and when they do learn of it, they are outraged. This refers to people on both sides of the Hudson. I myself have read good coverage by the Bergen Record, Robin Pogrebin of the NYTimes, and the Daily News. How about it, WNYC?
More muscle is needed to look into the hyper power grab of the Englewood Cliffs mayor who seems to have been able to engineer the overturn of the will of the people, as represented by 4 former New Jersey governors, and the established policy of the Interstate Parks Commission.
Englewood Cliff's mayor Parisi simply re-wrote the zoning laws in order to pander to the whims of LG. You can do that in New Jersey?

Feb. 26 2014 10:34 AM
Scott Neuman from TR

13. When Lt Governor was asked why she knowingly sign false election results for the Special Election, and confirmed by county clerks, she declined to answer. Eugene M. LaVergne and five others sued and won in Sept 2013 in Trenton. Lawsuit starts for damages on Feb 14th. Possible RICO charges from Federal Government also.

Feb. 12 2014 07:21 AM
look from nj

Regarding your 18 points, one might shed some light for me over my concern about the Sandy Federal fund monitoring.

The 30 firms that are on a qualified list that the State has approved include some JOINT BIDDING firms and at least one of the firms is Wolfe Samson, whose name is NOT listed as the "monitor" as the auditing firm's name is listed but in fact, the bid package that was accepted by CC's administration includes both the auditing firm and Wolf Samson in it's response to the proposal for auditing assistance.

Reading that joint response lists Lori Grifa as Wolfe's main contact person for David Samson's law firm.

I believe a similar situation exists with William Palatucci, who is listed on Gibbons PC law firm web site as leading a team specifically formed to assist the state of NJ.

If anyone is concerned with Todd Christie as a Director of a 175,000 person auditing firm of E & Y bidding, they should be more concerned with either Samson/Grifa or Palatucci getting any part of the auditing contract over the use/misuse of the Federal Sandy billions.The 30 firms that are on a qualified list that the State has approved include some JOINT BIDDING firms and at least one of the firms is Wolfe Samson, whose name is NOT listed as the "monitor" as the auditing firm's name is listed but in fact, the bid package that was accepted by CC's administration includes both the auditing firm and Wolf Samson in it's response to the proposal for auditing assistance.

Reading that joint response lists Lori Grifa as Wolfe's main contact person for David Samson's law firm.

I believe a similar situation exists with William Palatucci, who is listed on Gibbons PC law firm web site as leading a team specifically formed to assist the state of NJ.

If anyone is concerned with Todd Christie as a Director of a 175,000 person auditing firm of E & Y bidding, they should be more concerned with either Samson/Grifa or Palatucci getting any part of the auditing contract over the use/misuse of the Federal Sandy billions.The 30 firms that are on a qualified list that the State has approved include some JOINT BIDDING firms and at least one of the firms is Wolfe Samson, whose name is NOT listed as the "monitor" as the auditing firm's name is listed but in fact, the bid package that was accepted by CC's administration includes both the auditing firm and Wolf Samson in it's response to the proposal for auditing assistance.

Reading that joint response lists Lori Grifa as Wolfe's main contact person for David Samson's law firm.

I believe a similar situation exists with William Palatucci, who is listed on Gibbons PC law firm web site as leading a team specifically formed to assist the state of NJ.

If anyone is concerned with Todd Christie as a Director of a 175,000 person auditing firm of E & Y bidding, they should be more concerned with either Samson/Grifa or Palatucci getting any part of the auditing contract over the use/misuse of the Federal Sandy billions.

Feb. 05 2014 05:15 PM
Theresa L from Newark

The ACLU filed an OPRA case on behalf of the Education Law Center regarding the refusal of the Schools Development Authority to release reports on health and safety conditions in urban school buildings. Oral argument in the case is scheduled for next week.

http://www.edlawcenter.org/news/archives/school-facilities/sda-refuses-to-release-reports-on-health-and-safety-conditions-in-urban-school-buildings.html

Feb. 04 2014 01:17 PM
cloudear

@ Number 19

Definitely not defending governor Soprano here, but if you're adopted your adopted parents get a copy of the birth certificate. Nothing is "confiscated." I speak from experience.

Feb. 01 2014 11:41 AM

@Debbie Galant, it would be great if your OPRA Sherpa service were available not just to "official" journalists, but also bloggers and citizen activists.

Jan. 31 2014 05:02 PM
Bill Wolfe from Bordentown, NJ

Matt - here's something else that Gov. Christie did "in the first hour of his first day in office" that was far more important than his inaugural speech:

"Christie ends his first term attacking environmental protections, just where he started, when in the first hour of his first day in office, he issued a series of sweeping Executive Orders: establishing a moratorium on regulations (EO #1); regulatory relief, federal standards rollback, and cost benefit analysis (EO #2); a new Red Tape Czar and Red Tape commission (EO #3); and restrictions on unfunded state mandates (EO #4)."

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2014/01/end-of-christies-first-term-gov-signs-bill-to-extend-cleanup-deadline-for-toxic-polluters/

The torrent of media criticism would be a lot more credible if it were linked to the policies of the Administration instead of the "gotcha" crap.

Jan. 31 2014 09:32 AM
Bill Wolfe from Bordentown, NJ

Matt - I've used that Christie inaugural quote many times.

I've ad more than 18 OPRA barricades myself - and that's only at DEP.

We sued DEP under OPRA twice - and won both.

I've heard complaints about OPRA denials from many citizens.

Had the press not ignored critics such as myself and written about this early on during the first Christie Administration, perhaps they would not have been able to get away with what they did.

Jan. 31 2014 09:01 AM
Mocco_Razza from Teterboro

19.Christe is failing to confirm the worst kept secret in Trenton, his relationship, with Michelle Brown and his refusal to release all the documents about the hotel stays and his failure to reveal more about him paying her mortgage (its not a common ritual in NJ to pay for a womans mortgage, unless she is your "goomah"

20. That $800,000,000 in NJ tax dollars are being issued as Bonds under Christie and Bergen County government for a shopping mall, making it thelarges junk bond municipal issuance in the USA and the law firm is none other then Wolf Samson and the fees are NOT market rate including the lobbyist for the developer, Bergen GOP Party Boss Alan Marcus, who has disgusting sex-for-play scandal regarding county contracts

Jan. 30 2014 10:35 PM
NJ mom from NJ

This guy thinks NJ is his own pit oh gold.

Jan. 30 2014 09:03 PM
Debbie Galant

Hey Matt (and all other Jersey journos), check out our OPRA Sherpa service, to help you craft your OPRA requests. It might help

http://njnewscommons.org/let-us-be-your-opra-sherpa/

Jan. 30 2014 08:13 PM
Dr C from NJ

Articles previously published have established that Christie is related through his aunt to a leader of the Genovese crime family. (Just Google "Christie mob ties.")

It seems plausible that this is the real reason so many have resisted so weakly to the insanity in N.J.

Jan. 30 2014 05:16 PM
SteveFtGreene from Brooklyn

I think that it's too bad that it takes some kind of scandal to give the Media a reason to focus on how a given administration works. Granted that something looks pretty bad in New Jersey, but New York State government is also definitely lacking in openness. This is partly because government officials often do their best to keep the public's business hidden, but it's also because there is no ongoing in-depth reporting anywhere in the Media. It shouldn't take a specialist in politics to understand how New York State government works.

Jan. 30 2014 12:55 PM
sean

Matt, Have you checked out Christie's trip out to Colorado to appear at the Koch Brothers' event? See references below. The event was secretly recorded, too.

http://www.gregpalast.com/why-are-christie-and-the-kochs-in-my-driveway-its-time-to-subpoena-the-committee-for-our-childrens-future/

http://www.gregpalast.com/chris-christie-will-hate-this-film/

Jan. 30 2014 12:22 PM
Number 19 from Trenton NJ

He vetoed the Bill that would give every adult born in New Jersey access to the State's record of their own birth.

If your parents lost custody because of abuse or neglect, if they signed you away, You Still Get your Birth Certificate.

But if an adoption was finalized at some point the State confiscates it. Christie vetoed the bill to change that.

Jan. 30 2014 11:27 AM
Matt

Tammany Hall-style. He just couldn't wait to get his grubby hands on the state. Behind the scenes, this administration is everything it accused everyone else of being - not up front, discreet, scheming, not out for the public interest, all for its cronies and nothing but wasteful. The only other thing I'd like to see really followed up on is the story about Daniel Aubrey:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/28/nyregion/a-lieutenant-governor-an-artist-and-a-portrait-of-a-smear.html

Jan. 30 2014 10:50 AM
Hyper

Is there any journalist covering the Christie administration's plans to develop the corridor running north of the George Washington Bridge in Englewood Cliffs with high rises, despoiling the national natural landmark New Jersey Palisades?

Jan. 30 2014 10:34 AM

IMPEACH THE BUM

Jan. 30 2014 10:26 AM
Ron E from shoere

Hey it's NJ! Love it or leave it!
Sent from my Fl address, see ya in the summer

Jan. 30 2014 09:22 AM
Louis S from Jersey Shore

Depressing. This administration think they own NJ.

Jan. 30 2014 06:58 AM

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