By Mark Lagerkvist | Watchdog.org
In an apparent flip-flop, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie welcomed Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno back as his running mate for 2013 – despite the baggage of her pension scandal.
“I am thrilled she is going to be part of the team as we seek to serve the people of New Jersey for another four years,” said Christie in a statement released Tuesday.
Last week, Christie said he was unsure whether Guadagno would be on the ticket. When he announced his campaign to seek a second term, the governor said he had yet to talk to Guadagno about her plans.
With Guadagno, Christie is betting voters will overlook a $245,000 pension controversy that followed the lieutenant governor from her tenure as Monmouth County sheriff.
Christie has never publicly addressed the issue, including the question of whether he should appoint an independent prosecutor to handle the case.
False statements by Guadagno in 2008 enabled her chief officer, Michael W. Donovan Jr., to collect nearly $85,000 a year in state retirement pay in addition to his $87,500 annual salary. The story was first reported by New Jersey Watchdog in 2010.
Under state statute, “Any person who shall knowingly make any false statement or shall falsify or permit to be falsified any record or records of this retirement system … shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
In May 2011, a state pension board requested a criminal investigation of the Donovan matter. The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice. However, the DCJ investigation is riddled with conflicts of interest:
Guadagno is DCJ’s former deputy director. She held the post from 1998 to 2001.
Nearly two dozen DCJ investigators and supervisors are “double-dippers” who collect state paychecks and pensions.
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, a Christie appointee, is in charge of the probe of fellow cabinet member Guadagno.
Representatives for Chiesa have not responded to queries about the investigation, which began 19 months ago. Spokespeople for Guadagno have declined comment.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Watchdog has been winning battles in a legal war over records gathered during a state Treasury review of the Donovan-Guadagno pension controversy.
A state appellate judge denied a motion last month by the Attorney General seeking to stop the Government Records Council, another state agency, from reviewing Treasury files requested by the investigative news site.
As a result, Treasury officials must comply with a GRC order to turn over 26 documents for inspection. After review, the council will determine which documents, if any, should be released to New Jersey Watchdog under the Open Public Records Act.
— Edited by Kelly Carson, firstname.lastname@example.org