Saturday, July 2, 2011

State Commission of Investigation in Chris Christie's Pocket

What with the death of public media in New Jersey and all, I thought it was time to fire up the blog again.

Prior to Chris Christie's taking office, New Jersey had three independent watchdog agencies -- the Inspector General, the Medicaid Inspector General and the State Commission of Investigation. Last year, as a budget cutting move, the Inspector General and the Medicaid Inspector General were merged with the State Comptroller, bringing both into the Executive Branch and under the control of Chris Christie.

Christie also wanted to merge the State Commission of Investigation into the Comptroller's Office. However, the SCI is under the jurisdiction of the Legislature; and there was great outcry from both Democrats and Republicans, currently in office and retired, against merging the agency. So the Governer relented.

In late March of this year, however, Governor Christie announced that U.S. Attorney Patrick Degnan had been named Executive Director of SCI for the next three years. Degnan, like anyone who has ever worked for Christie, knows that if Degnan ever crosses Christie, not only will Christie never again promote him but Degnan will be on Chris Christie's hit list. Think Joan Verplank at the Chamber of Commerce.

How exactly did Chris Christie get his man in charge at the State Commission of Investigation? Members of SCI are appointed by the Governor, the President of the New Jersey Senate and the Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly. Which means Steve Sweeney and Sheila Oliver agreed placed the SCI under the control of a former U.S. Attorney approved by Chris Christie.

One wonders the full parameters of THAT deal.

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