JUNE 02, 2008
The governor who has withheld hundreds of pages of electronic mail exchanged with a state union leader who was his girlfriend must release them because they discussed contract negotiations and are therefore public record.
For more than a year New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has refused to disclose the files even though they involve state worker contracts and the governor’s girlfriend at the time, Carla Katz, was the head of the largest state worker union, Communication’s Workers of America Local 1034.
The relationship could have tainted state worker negotiations in 2006 and 2007 so New Jersey’s Republican Party chairman sued to make the e-mails public. Corzine fought to keep the files private, claiming that they are protected under privileges of his office.
A judge disagreed, however, and ordered the governor to release the files in two weeks. Superior Court Judge Paul Innes said the public has a right to know whether the relationship between the governor and his union leader girlfriend had any “improper influence on the governor’s paramount obligation to serve the interest of the citizens of New Jersey first.”
Judge Innes pointed out that the relationship between the governor and the head of the largest state-worker union local created a clear potential for conflict. In other words, the emails were not simply private discussions between Corzine and his girlfriend.
Last year Corzine admitted that he showered his influential girlfriend with expensive gifts and cash while her union was negotiating a contract with the governor’s administration. The state’s ethics commission decided, however, not to investigate the governor for conflict of interest. That could have something to do with the fact that the two members of the special advisory panel were appointed by Corzine.
Determined to keep the e-mails private, the governor has vowed to appeal the judge’s decision saying that he is disappointed by the narrow definition of executive privilege.
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