The entity that handles appeals of rejected requests for public information meets once a month in a first-floor office in Trenton. Windows offer a view of an atrium outside, but it's difficult — literally and otherwise — to look from the outside in.
Called the Government Records Council, this agency adjudicates appeals from all levels of New Jersey government, from your school board on up to Christie's office. I reviewed its records, excluded obviously frivolous complaints, and found that under Christie, the GRC has ruled on 44 cases involving state departments.
Wha, huh, wha!? The ACTING education commissioner - yes, he is unconfirmed - is determining whether or not records about his department are released or not?And all 44 times, the GRC sided with the Christie administration.The GRC is supposed to have five members appointed by the governor, but Christie has left it with three for most of his term. There are now four, including a Christie campaign donor, Christie's education commissioner, and Christie's community affairs commissioner. [emphasis mine]
Oh, I'm sure he recuses himself when the DOE is involved. I'm sure he has no influence on the ultimate decisions about his own department...
And though the 44-0 record compiled by the short-staffed GRC is interesting, if you were to show up at a GRC meeting, you wouldn't be able to keep score yourself.
You might hear cases involving, say, the Department of Environmental Protection or the Camden City school board. And you would hear votes tallied by council members. But in a novel approach to governing that only Kafka could appreciate, you would not know what those votes meant. Who won? Who lost?
Gimme a break. We can't even tell whether the ACTING Commissioner is engaging in a conflict of interest?Rulings on whether documents can remain secret are secret themselves — pending formal notification to the parties involved informing them of the decision.
There has been a slew of secretive machinations taking place at the DOE since the day Cerf first showed up. When it looked like Cerf might actually have a confirmation hearing back in February, I had a list of questions for him. And that's before the big DOE consultancy fees, and the plans to take over Camden, and the Broadie infestation, and the delay of the charter report, and lord knows how many other things came to light.
Now you're telling me ACTING Commissioner Cerf controls the flow of information out of his office and to the public? Are you freakin' kidding me?!
This is outrageous - and who knows how it has spread to other parts of the Christie administration? The Legislature would be well advised to stop wasting its time with unproven "problems" and start cleaning this mess up immediately.
It's good to get to decide what the public needs to know!