JANUARY 13, 2009
A New Jersey Appellate Court has reversed a judge’s decision ordering the governor to disclose electronic mail exchanges with his labor union leader girlfriend while they were on opposing sides of state worker contract negotiations.
A Superior Court judge had previously ordered Governor Jon Corzine to make public hundreds of pages of emails exchanged with girlfriend Carla Katz, president of the largest union representing state workers (Communications Workers of America Local 1034), because both parties were heavily involved in public negotiations at the time.
For more than a year, the Democrat governor refused to disclose the files claiming that they are protected under privileges of his office. Last June, Superior Court Judge Paul Innes ordered Corzine to release the emails because the public has the right to know whether the relationship had any “improper influence on the governor’s paramount obligation to serve the interest of the citizens of New Jersey first.”
Corzine quickly appealed and this week a three-judge New Jersey Appellate Court panel reversed that order, claiming that the emails are in fact covered under executive privilege. In a 37-page decision, the court said that the governor properly asserted executive privilege.
“The release of confidential e-mails may have a chilling effect on the governor’s ability or willingness to solicit advice, or accept unsolicited advice in the future,” according to the ruling, which goes on to say that the governor “must be accorded a qualified power to protect the confidentiality of communication pertaining to the executive function.”
Never mind the obvious conflict created by the romantic relationship of the two key players in a massive state contract negotiation. Clearly, it could have tainted the process and taxpayers certainly have the right to know.
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