Secrets surface in probe implicating New Jersey’s lieutenant governor
SECRETS: A few details are beginning to emerge in a secret investigation into New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s part in a pension problem.
By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog
A pension probe implicating Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is so secret the New Jersey attorney general’s office won’t share its findings with the state board that requested the criminal investigation.
As a result, trustees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System remain in the dark about the results of an investigation they referred in 2011 to the attorney general’s Division of Criminal Justice. Yet a few details came to light at a board meeting this week.
Trustees were handed copies of a letter from DCJ to PFRS dated June 2012. It stated DCJ had closed the case, but offered little more.
“If this is closed, when are we going to find out the outcome?” trustee John Sierchio asked in open session. “I just want to know how they came to their conclusion.”
The letter invited the board to take “whatever administrative action you deem appropriate.”
“It’s difficult to take appropriate action without the supporting material,” trustee Richard D. Loccke said.
The board approved his motion to seek the case file from DCJ, a request destined to be denied.
A reporter is suing DCJ for those same records in Mercer County Superior Court as part of New Jersey Watchdog‘s continuing investigation of an apparent $245,000 pension scam involving Guadagno when she was Monmouth County sheriff.
In 2008, Guadagno made false and contradictory statements that enabled her top aide to improperly collect $85,000 a year in state pension checks in addition to his $87,500 salary as her chief.
Following New Jersey Watchdog’s reports, the PFRS board asked DCJ in May 2011 to conduct a criminal probe.
However, that investigation was rife with obvious conflicts of interest.
Guadagno had previously served as DCJ’s deputy director. Gov. Chris Christie failed to use his constitutional authority to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a probe involving his second-in-command and member of his cabinet.
Nearly three years later, a compromised investigation and its conclusion remain state secrets.
Members of the PFRS board were miffed by DCJ’s June 2012 letter and why they did not receive it for 20 months. The exchange was recorded by New Jersey Watchdog.
“I don’t think this needs executive session,” said Sierchio.
“It pertains to litigation — it needs to be done in executive session,” replied Deputy Attorney General Danielle Schimmel.
“The letter says the case is closed,” Sierchio said.
“These cases need to be discussed in executive session,” Schimmel repeated.
“Is the case open or closed?” Loccke asked.
“I can’t answer that in open session,” countered Schimmel.
“Can I get a motion to go into executive session?” suggested chair Wayne Hall.
“I’ll make that motion if that’s the only way I’ll get my answer,” said Loccke.
After about 15 minutes behind closed doors, the board publicly passed a resolution requesting the case file from DCJ.
Following the meeting, Schimmel retrieved the board members’ copies of the DCJ letter in an effort to keep the document from being publicly released.
In addition to her role as legal adviser to the PFRS board, Schimmel is one of the state lawyers fighting disclosure of pension probe records to New Jersey Watchdog.
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DISCLOSURE: Investigative reporter Mark Lagerkvist is the plaintiff in the public records cases against Treasury (OAL GRC 6985-13 & GRC 2011-110) and Division of Criminal Justice (Mercer County Superior Court, MER-L-464-13).
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