Monday, August 11, 2014
NJ WATCHDOG: Christie's ethics watchdogs fail to bark or bite
For immediate release:
When it comes to ethics, Chris Christie can talk the talk. But does the New Jersey governor walk the walk when his ethics watchdogs are actually lapdogs?
Christie’s hand-picked Ethics Advisory Panel did not take action during its first four years – a period in which Bridgegate, Doublegate and other controversies came to light.
In response to a public records request by New Jersey Watchdog, the governor’s office reported it cannot find any decision by the panel.
Created by executive order, the panel has the power to penalize and fine the governor or lieutenant governor for ethical infractions. But as governor, Christie picks the panel members – and he retains the power to rescind any executive order anytime he chooses.
The existence of the Ethics Advisory Panel did not prevent the conflict of interest faced by the governor and his administration in Doublegate – a pension controversy implicating Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
A state pension board requested a criminal investigation of alleged pension fraud in May 2011. The case was assigned to the attorney general’s Division of Criminal Justice – even though Guadagno was DCJ’s former deputy director.
Faced with a choice, Christie did not use his constitutional power to appoint a special prosecutor or investigator to handle a probe likely to involve his lieutenant governor. The Ethics Advisory Panel had the authority to review the matter at its own discretion and issue a public determination.
But that never happened.
The story is now online at http://watchdog.org/163209/christie-ethics-watchdogs/.