For immediate release
Dispute over Christie travel records takes trip to court
Chris Christie’s lawyers won’t be allowed to escape a court date next week in a lawsuit by a New Jersey Watchdog reporter over records of the governor’s travel paid by outside organizations.
Judge Mary C. Jacobson denied the state’s request yesterday to reschedule or consolidate the case with other public records actions against the governor pending in Mercer County Superior Court.
If granted, proceedings in the case could have been indefinitely delayed. Instead, it remains on course for a hearing Tuesday, July 29.
The dispute centers on disclosures by third-party organizations that pay for out-of-state trips by Christie and his senior staff. State agencies are required to collect and keep documentation of who’s paying on the third-party’s letterhead, under rules detailed in Treasury Circular 12-14-OMB.
At first, the governor’s office completely denied the reporter’s request for the files, claiming it was "unclear...and therefore invalid" under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.
Now, Christie’s lawyers are arguing he is exempt from travel regulations, relying on a 1979 memo to former Gov. Brendan Byrne from a budget director.
Because of that letter, which predates current rules by 35 years, the requirement for disclosure “does not apply to the governor’s office,” argued Deputy Attorney General Todd Wigder in a brief to the court.
The story is now online at http://watchdog.org/161436/christie-travel-lawsuit/.