Second ethics complaint filed against Gov. Christie
The controversy involving Gov. Chris Christie and his acceptance of luxury box tickets and travel accommodations from Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones shows no signs of dissipating.
On Tuesday, the American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint against Christie with the State Ethics Commission citing Jones' relationship with the Port Authority. With word that the commission can't consider the complaint, the Fund filed another one late Wednesday.
The latest complaint was sent to the Governor's Advisory Ethics panel which can consider the grievance. The two members, former State Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero and Thomas Calcagni, former director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs, were both appointed by Christie. It is unclear when, or even if, they will consider the complaint.
"There's no schedule. They just meet when they are requested to advise on a particular situation, when asked by the governor to give him advice or her advice on a situation," said Bill Schluter, former vice chairman of the State Ethics Commission and a former state senator.
The governor has not yet asked the panel to consider the complaint, but if it does, Schluter said there could be consequences for Christie.
"They can pass judgment if there is a violation. I guess they can fine. It's a little bit vague. It's not as precise as the State Ethics Commission," Schluter said.
The Governor's Code of Conduct is part of Executive Order 24. It states that "If a question is raised with regard to the propriety of the conduct of the governor and the lieutenant governor, and the Advisory Ethics Panel was not consulted by the chief counsel or the Ethics Liaison Officer prior to the governor or lieutenant governor engaging in such conduct, the Advisory Ethics Panel shall have the discretion to review the question and to issue a public determination. In such circumstances, if the Panel finds that the Governor's or the Lieutenant Governor's actions were in violation of the Code of Conduct for the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor, the Panel shall have the power to impose penalties, including monetary sanctions."
The head of the liberal American Democracy Legal Fund is Brad Woodhouse, who also heads up the political action committee American Bridge. In his letter to the Advisory Ethics panel, Woodhouse wrote that Christie "appears to have violated New Jersey's Conflicts of Interest law" by accepting gifts from Jones whose Dallas Cowboys are part owner of Legend Hospitality, LLC which received a contract on March, 20, 2013 with the Port Authority overseen by Christie and NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"Their friendship began in the summer of 2013. Whether they first met or spoke in 2010 or 2011 in a passing way, I can't account for that," said Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts referring to the relationship between Christie and Jones.
In his letter, Woodhouse urged the Advisory Ethics panel to investigate the matter quickly to determine what gifts Christie received from Jones and to impose appropriate penalties.
"Is anyone surprised pro-Hillary PACs like American Bridge and partisan organizations like the DNC are using the Governor's support of a football team for a political hit," Christie's Communication Director Maria Comella asked in a statement issued Tuesday.
The Select Committee on Investigation seemed poised to be the first panel to probe Christie's ties to Jones. Co-chair, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) said Tuesday that he and co-chair State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) discussed the possibility, but Wednesday a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats' Office said that would not happen.