Gov. Christie First Term Report CardTransparencyF

Broken Promises of Transparency

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

After Gov. Christie was elected in 2009, he touted government accountability as a major priority of his administration. However, the administration has proven to be increasingly opaque.

Members of the governor’s administration have demonstrated a penchant for using their personal email addresses to conduct government business, as was revealed during the Bridgegate scandal.59 And Gov. Christie rejected a bill in 2012 (S1761) that would have made the Port Authority more accountable even before the Bridgegate scandal broke.60

When it came to recovery plans after Superstorm Sandy, the Christie administration gave members of the public only seven days to read and provide comments on a draft of its recovery plan — if they were lucky enough to know about its publication. The administration did not schedule public hearings or produce a strategy for including the public’s input.61

A Constant Struggle for Records

The ACLU-NJ routinely must struggle to wrest documents from the Christie administration. The administration’s default reaction to basic open records requests is to resist, forcing the ACLU-NJ to sue nine times during the governor’s first term. The ACLU-NJ has won six of those cases and three are still pending. But it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to access basic public records. Here are just a few of the battles in the last few years that the ACLU-NJ has had to wage to get access to basic public information:

  • The ACLU-NJ had to sue the State Police in 2012 to get access to policies regulating public conduct in the State House, specifically the rules regarding whether the public can wear buttons and pins.62
  • In June 2012, the ACLU-NJ sued the Department of Education (DOE) for emails pertaining to its relationship with a private foundation that funds public education initiatives. The DOE refused, saying it was not required to unless the requestor included extraordinary details in the request, such as the names of email senders or recipients, and the exact subject of the email or the email’s subject line. The court rejected the state’s position and the records were turned over in January 2013.63
  • The administration defended a regulation that excludes the public from accessing overtime information for State Police, as well as its operating procedures. The state has proposed new regulations that would now only exclude operating procedures from the public if the disclosure would impact public safety, but it still refuses to disclose records of overtime received by state police officers.64

Skirting the Democratic Process

Gov. Christie and his administration have routinely violated New Jersey’s Administrative Procedures Act. The Administrative Procedures Act dictates that a substantive change in state regulations can only be made through the democratic process, with real opportunities for public consideration and input. The Christie administration has ignored this provision on a wide array of public issues: trampling the rights of Occupy Trenton participants,65 pushing through Real ID,66 and trying to dramatically weaken New Jersey’s affordable housing laws.67

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Related Content

59 Murphy, Brian, “A closer look at the latest Bridgegate emails,” Msnbc.com, March 21, 2014, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/closer-look-the-latest-bridgegate-emails

60 Strunsky, Steve, and Spoto, MaryAnn, “Senate Dems fail to override Christie’s veto of Port Authority transparency bill,” The Star-Ledger, Oct. 4, 2012, http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/10/senate_dems_fail_to_override_c.html

61 ACLU of New Jersey and Rutgers School of Law-Newark, “Comments on the March 13, 2013, Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan,” March 19, 2013, https://www.aclu-nj.org/files/2713/6379/4100/2013_03_20_SandyRecovery.pdf

62 ACLU-NJ v. NJ State Police, Superior Court Mercer County. Sept. 24, 2012. ACLU-NJ Legal Docket. https://www.aclu-nj.org/legaldocket/aclu-nj-v-nj-state-police/

63 Education Law Center v. NJDOE, Superior Court Mercer County. June 28, 2012. ACLU-NJ Legal Docket. https://www.aclu-nj.org/legaldocket/education-law-center-vs-njdoe/

64 Rivera v. Vargas and the NJ State Police, Superior Court Mercer County. Sept. 17, 2012. ACLU-NJ Legal Docket. https://www.aclu-nj.org/legaldocket/rivera-v-vargas-and-nj-state-police/

65 ACLU-NJ, “ACLU-NJ wins temporary restraining order in favor of Occupy Trenton protesters,” Nov. 7, 2011, https://www.aclu-nj.org/news/2011/11/07/aclu-nj-wins-temporary-restraining-order-in-favor-of-occupy-trenton-protesters

66 ACLU-NJ, “ACLU-NJ halts new state ID program.” aclu-nj.org, May 7, 2012, https://www.aclu-nj.org/news/2012/05/07/aclu-nj-lawsuit-halts-new-state-id-program

67 Walsh, Kevin, “Court blocks Governor Christie’s housing rules,” Fair Share Housing Center, Oct. 21, 2011, http://fairsharehousing.org/blog/entry/court-blocks-governor-christies-housing-rules/

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