One of Gov. Chris Christie's closest friends and political advisers is stepping down from his positions at New Jersey's largest operator of privately run halfway houses.

(Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Christie's former law partner Bill Palatucci is resigning as a senior vice president and general counsel at Community Education Centers.

The CEC was criticized at recent legislative hearings following a series of articles in The New York Times describing escapes, violence, security lapses, drug use and other problems at their facilities.

The Star-Ledger reports that Palatucci is stepping down Nov. 15 and will affiliate with a law firm.

Palatucci declined to say whether the move means he's preparing to help Christie run for re-election.

He says he wants to be available to help Republican candidates "up and down the ticket" in 2013.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)