Bill Stems from Secret Christie Administration $1.5M Corruption Allegation Settlement
Says Public’s Right to Know is Paramount & Outweighs Confidentiality
(TRENTON) – Assembly Judiciary Chairman John McKeon on Friday announced he’s introduced legislation to bar public entities and public employees from entering into confidential settlements of whistleblower lawsuits and mandating that such settlements constitute public records.
McKeon (D-Essex/Morris) introduced the bill after the state for $1.5 million settled a whistleblower lawsuit with a former Hunterdon County assistant prosecutor who claims he was fired for alleging Gov. Chris Christie’s administration dismissed an indictment because it involved supporters of the governor.
“The public’s right to know how their money is spent demands an open discussion, as does the public’s right to learn all the facts about any allegations, which in this case were very concerning,” McKeon said. “The public’s right to know how their money is spent and about potential corruption must take priority. The public interest outweighs everything else.”
The bill (A-4243) would bar public entities and public employees from entering into confidential settlements of claims or actions where the public employee asserts the protections of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, except for matters involving national security.
“It’s disturbing that someone who uses the whistleblower law to truthfully speak out against wrongdoing can then be stifled when the matter is resolved,” McKeon said.
The bill also provides that such settlements constitute public records under the open public records laws.
“It’s unacceptable that the state would spend $1.5 million in taxpayer money, then refuse to discuss the terms of a settlement involving serious corruption allegations,” McKeon said. “I reiterate my call for both sides to voluntarily discuss the details of this settlement, but will be pursuing this legislative remedy in the meantime. Taxpayers deserve to know that this outrageous abuse of their money can never happen again.”
Under current law, the name, address, and identity of a victim of a sex crime or child abuse who was under the age of 18 at the time of the offense shall not appear on the indictment, complaint, or any other public record. The bill wouldn’t affect this requirement.