|Gov. Chris Christie|
NEWARK - In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie's office today released records that it originally shielded citing executive privilege.
The record, a page from his calendar on September 11, 2010, was originally sought after by John Cook, a reporter with Gawker. Cook filed an open records request for email, calendar entries and phone records of Christie's correspondence with Fox News President Roger Ailes, but was denied. Christie's office rejected the request on June 14, 2011 citing executive privilege. Earlier today, it released a calendar entry confirming a private meeting between Christie and Ailes, and claimed that no further records exist.
While today's response from the Governor's office will likely resolve the lawsuit, it raises new questions.
"We're happy to see the matter resolved quickly but remain concerned that the governor's office initially issued a blanket executive privilege claim in response to Gawker's request for records," said Frank Corrado, of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gibson, who represents Cook on behalf of the ACLU-NJ. "Is the governor's office actually reviewing records requests from the public, or is it simply using executive privilege as a carte blanche to deny access to all correspondence with his office?"
After Christie's office released the documents, the ACLU-NJ sent a letter to his office expressing its concern about the governor's use of executive privilege, and asking to meet with his administration to address the concerns.
"Governor Christie often highlights his expressed commitment to government transparency government, so we were especially concerned about his use of the executive privilege exception" said Deborah Jacobs, ACLU-NJ executive director. "We need the assurances of his office that the utmost information is released to the public."
Cook sought the records from Christie's office in order to shed light on conversations reported in New York magazine in which Ailes, a Republican political adviser turned Fox media mogul, urged Governor Christie to run for president. The lawsuit was filed after the governor's office rejected his open records request.
Executive privilege protects the Governor from disclosing records that contain advice to him on matters related to his executive functions as Governor of New Jersey. However, while New Jersey's executive privilege exists to protect "the sensitive decisional and consultative" responsibilities of the governor to fulfill his constitutional obligations, it does not apply to records that do not pertain to his constitutional obligations as the chief executive. Members of the press and the public alike need to know that the Governor only uses executive privilege to protect the integrity of his decisions and not to protect any and all correspondence he simply wishes to shield from scrutiny.
The case is captioned Gawker Entertainment v. Jeffrey S. Chiesa .