On his first day as governor of New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie promised "a new era of accountability and transparency." But five years later, local reporters and watchdog groups accuse Christie's administration of making unprecedented efforts to keep public records a secret.
Stonewalled by the Christie administration, media outlets have been forced to sue to obtain even routinely disclosed information, such as payroll data. Rather than release documents connected to the George Washington Bridge scandal, pay-to-play allegations, possible ethics violations, and the out-of-state jaunts Christie has made while weighing a run for president, Christie's office and several state agencies have waged costly court battles. As the 2016 presidential primary race draws closer, and Christie considers jumping in, his administration is fighting 23 different open-records requests in court.
"The track record is abysmal," says Jennifer Borg, general counsel for the North Jersey Media Group. Her organization, which publishes theRecord, has sued the state for public documents a half-dozen times since Christie took office. When a judge determines that the state withheld records illegally—which happens frequently—her group wins legal fees. As of September 2014, Christie's administration had paid $441,000 to North Jersey Media Group and other media outlets for records. And that doesn't count the cost of government lawyers' time.
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