Christie to Mayors: Show Me The (Unexplained Amounts of) Money
Posted by Adam Gordon on July 24th 2012
This morning, hundreds of mayors in New Jersey awoke to letters from the Christie Administration stating how much money the Governor intends to take from their municipal housing trust funds. The confusing and secretive letters (of which an example is available here), appear designed to keep towns in the dark as to how the Christie Administration has decided which money to take and which money not to take.
“It’s the ultimate black box,” Fair Share Housing Center Staff Attorney Adam Gordon said. “Governor Christie expects New Jersey’s mayors to mail in checks for millions of dollars to the state government with no explanation of how the amounts were calculated. Last night, he sent out hundreds of letters to New Jersey towns - and not one of them explains how it arrived at the conclusions that either no money, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars are due.”
For example, in Pemberton Borough, where the Attorney General’s office represented that their actions should have been sufficient to prevent any money from being taken before the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court just ten days ago, and another court had already approved expenditures of all of the funds, the Christie Administration is now demanding $363,399.26.
The letters set an August 13 deadline for mayors to do one of two things: accept the unexplained figures and mail the checks to the state - or dispute the figures and send reasons why to the state. The letters do not specify what will happen if municipalities dispute the figures, or specify any public process or hearings in which mayors can question the amounts.
“Governor Christie is telling mayors: if you agree with me, send me the money. If you don’t agree with me, there’s a secret process that I can’t tell you about,” Gordon added. “These letters fail to meet basic standards of open government and due process.”
The letters further require mayors to certify “subject to punishment” that the amounts are correct, again without any explanation of how they were calculated, or to provide a different number.
The letters are not available publicly other than having been mailed one by one to individual towns. Fair Share Housing Center has requested the state government provide it with copies of all letters sent to every town but has received no response.