Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Christie: Let's Rein In State's 'Shadow Government'

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie yesterday took the next step to bring accountability and oversight to the so-called “independent” authorities, boards and commissions that constitute New Jersey’s shadow government by proposing comprehensive reform legislation for the Legislature’s consideration. Since taking office, Governor Christie has aggressively policed the activities of those entities where veto authority exists, including vetoing meeting minutes 21 times. The Governor has also acted to remove commissioners at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners and the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, where malfeasance and inappropriate conduct were uncovered. Extending veto authority to entities lacking gubernatorial oversight will allow the Governor’s Administration to prevent these types of abuses before they occur, ensure public funds are being appropriately used and that ethical standards are followed.

The “Shadow Government Reform” legislation extends gubernatorial veto authority and additional oversight tools to the Governor’s Office and State Comptroller, establishing and/or enhancing Governor Christie’s ability to police the actions of designated multi-jurisdictional, regional entities throughout the state, such as water, sewer and environmental authorities that span multiple counties; county and regional utility authorities; entities with publicly documented waste, fraud or abuse of public resources; and entities with critical responsibilities that currently lack oversight of their operations, spending and budgeting.

“The writing is on the wall for New Jersey’s shadow government – the abuse stops now. These entities that for too long have engaged in conduct without oversight, often at the public’s expense, and with a blind eye from members of both political parties, will no longer be able to operate with impunity. With this legislation, my Administration will be better equipped to continue putting the best interest of the public first by cracking down on waste, impropriety and business-as-usual at these entities, where nobody is watching what is going on,” said Governor Christie. “The abuse that defies good government and the public’s trust and resources is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem. It is a New Jersey problem that the people sent me here to fix. I urge the Legislature to side with the taxpaying, rate paying and toll paying public, rather than the entrenched interests, and quickly take action to end this shadow government’s defiance of standards of good government.”

Extending or expanding the Governor’s veto authority is necessary to prevent waste, abuse and unethical conduct before it occurs and rein in the practices of authorities that have continuously flouted Governor Christie’s insistence on a high-level of accountability in their conduct. The legislation put forward by Governor Christie yesterday will establish or enhance oversight and accountability at the designated entities through the following mechanisms:

· Provide gubernatorial oversight through veto within a 15-day window and mandatory service of agendas and minutes upon Governor’s Authorities Unit request;

· Expressly provide that board members will serve without compensation;

· Provide the Governor with authority to remove a member of the governing body of a regional authority for cause;

· Require financial disclosure statements from the members of the governing bodies of each regional authority;

· Expressly define entities as “regional authorities” so that they will be subject to other forms of state oversight, including Executive Orders and ethics requirements;

· Explicitly grant the state Comptroller the authority to inquire into the financials of the regional authorities; and

· Subject all “regional authorities” to the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law administered by the State Ethics Commission;

Following is an illustrative list of the authorities, boards and commissions addressed in the legislation:

Cape-Atlantic Soil Conservation District
Cumberland-Salem Soil Conservation District
Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission
Freehold Soil Conservation District
Hudson-Essex & Passaic Soil Conservation District
Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority
Joint Meeting of Essex and Union
Lake Hopatcong Commission
Landis Sewerage Authority
Middlesex County Utilities Authority
Morris County Utilities Authority
Musconetcong Sewerage Authority
New Jersey Meadowlands Commission
North Jersey District Water Supply Commission
Ocean County Utilities Authority
Old Bridge Municipal Utilities Authority
Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners
Passaic Valley Water Commission
Pequannock River Basin Regional Sewerage Authority
Pequannock-Lincoln Park Fairfield Sewerage Authority
Plainfield Regional Sewerage Authority
Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority
Somerset-Union Soil Conservation District
State Soil Conservation Committee
Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority

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