ACCESS RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT WHY OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR CONTINUES TO STONEWALL ON PRODUCING CONTROVERSIAL STATE DOSSIERS LISTING MAYORS, POLITICAL ALLIES AND ENEMIES BY TOWN
Secaucus, NJ, March 24, 2014: Breaking news in the form of this morning’s Page One New York Times story on how the Office of the Governor’s internal investigation has found no evidence tying the Governor personally to the “Bridgegate” events. The article further makes it seem as if the report containing the internal investigation findings will be released soon.
The level of wide access on one hand contradicts the stonewalling leading to the lawsuit by Alexis Serringer (whom I represent) to force the production from Governor Christie’s office of certain “dossiers” on as much as — or more than — 100 mayors across New Jersey. The lawsuit contends that such dossiers must be produced under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.
“The optics of such disclosure are fine,” said New York investigative and corporate lawyer Eric Dixon, “but that’s the purpose of optics — to look good. As the famous Wendy’s ad went, ‘where’s the beef?‘ The reality is that the Office of the Governor, through its $650 an hour blended rate Park Avenue lawyers, is picking and choosing when to be open and when to hide government documents.”
“By extension, it really suggests they’re spending a lot of taxpayer money to pick and choose when to follow the law [OPRA] and when to ignore it.”
Here is the text of Dixon’s response in Serringer v. Office of the Governor, Docket MER-L-00563-14, communicated to the State Superior Court, Mercer County this morning. Note the bold text which is distinguished for emphasis.
I represent Plaintiff Alexis Serringer in this action under the Open Public Records Act. This letter is submitted due to exigent circumstances, namely, revelations in a New York Times Page One article (attached) entitled, “Inquiry Is Said To Clear Christie, but That’s His Lawyers’ Verdict.” The article details the “extensive review” and scope of access of the outside lawyers retained by and given unparalleled access to records and personnel of the Office of the Governor (Defendant in this OPRA action). The article cites lead lawyer Randy Mastro citing the “level of cooperation” and “volume of records reviewed” from Defendant.
These facts support the inferences that the Office of the Governor had unprecedented resources with which to respond to Plaintiff’s OPRA request for an unmistakably government record. Such ability to respond strongly indicates that The Office of the Governor was far from unable to respond. Rather, it indicates the Office of the Governor knowingly and willingly elected to neither produce dossiers made and kept by the Office nor to cite an exemption or justification under OPRA. Accordingly, this lawsuit must be allowed to proceed and the previously submitted Order to Show Cause must be issued.
The dossiers, whose existence was first reported by the New York Times on January 29, 2014, were allegedly maintained by the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs within the Governor’s Office. The New York Times reported as follows:
“Staff members in the governor’s office created tabbed and color-coded dossiers on the mayors of each town — who their friends and enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them — that were bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his S.U.V. between events.”