Monday, September 29, 2014
NJ Watchdog fights for Guadagno pension probe records in appeals court
For immediate release:
The mystery of what happened in a criminal investigation of an alleged $245,000 pension fraud implicating Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno may finally be solved in a New Jersey appeals court.
A New Jersey Watchdog reporter is appealing a lower court’s decision not to release three key documents that include the findings of a probe by the attorney general’s Division of Criminal Justice.
“In spite of what appears to be a clear case of high-ranking government officials aiding or participating in a pension double-dip scheme, the DCJ closed the investigation without any charges being filed,” the reporter’s attorney, Donald M. Doherty Jr., argued in a brief submitted last week in Superior Court Appellate Division.
“The lieutenant governor was the Monmouth County sheriff during the questionable activities; she is also a former deputy director of DCJ, the investigating agency,” continued Doherty. “The public should be able to learn how DCJ came to its decision and whether it even considered the culpability of the lieutenant governor.”
Guadagno would become governor if Chris Christie steps down to run for president in the 2016 election. Release of the DCJ files could lead to greater scrutiny of why Christie did not use his constitutional authority to appoint a special prosecutor or investigator and avoid the inherent conflict-of-interest.
DCJ lawyers contend that disclosing the records would undermine the agency’s ability to conduct investigations of public corruption.
“How ironic is it to have public officials making secret deals and then contending that revealing the investigation needs to be secret to preserve public confidence?” Doherty asked the court. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”
The controversy known as “Doublegate” began when Guadagno was Monmouth County sheriff in 2008 – the year before she first ran for lieutenant governor as Christie's running mate.
As sheriff, Guadagno made false and conflicting statements that enabled her chief officer, Michael Donovan, to improperly collect an $85,000 a year pension in addition to his $87,500 salary, as first reported by New Jersey Watchdog in 2010.
The full story is now online at http://watchdog.org/173842/guadagno-pension-probe-2/. The brief can be viewed or downloaded at http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2014/09/ML-v-DCJ-appeal.pdf.