Chris Christie Wins Rutgers Board Appointment Battle

     TRENTON (CN) – A New Jersey appeals court has upheld Gov. Chris Christie’s controversial appointment of a Hispanic civil rights leader to Rutgers University’s Board of Governors.
     State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) last year claimed Christie broke higher education law by naming Martin Perez to the board, which helps govern The Garden State’s largest university.
     Sweeney argued the slot was to be filled by a Camden County resident. Perez, from Middlesex County, did not qualify for the 15-member board, he said.
     Rutgers has a campus in the city of Camden.
     The lawsuit, filed in the appellate division, requested a court to immediately declare Perez’s appointment “null and void.”
     Judge Susan Reisner denied Sweeney’s request for an emergency decision, however, saying the case did not warrant a quick ruling.
     In response to the lawsuit, Christie reportedly called Smith “a joke” and accused him of blocking “Hispanic representation on the Rutgers Board of Governors for two years.”
     The back-and-forth followed Sweeney’s unsuccessful move last year to completely eliminate Rutgers’ Board of Trustees.
     Earlier this year, Sweeney separately introduced a bill that that would add four more political appointees to the Board of Governors, expanding it to 19 members.
     A three-member panel on Tuesday ruled Christie was only required to pick a Camden County resident with one of his eight appointments, and that he fulfilled his obligation by nominating William Tambussi.
     “Since the Governor nominated a Camden County resident to fill an existing vacancy on the Board, his appointment of Perez to one of the additional two seats without the advice and consent of the Senate was an appropriate exercise of the authority conferred on him by the statute,” Judge Joseph Yannotti wrote.
     “(T)he statute requires that one of the Governor’s appointees be a resident of Camden County, and another a resident of Essex County, appointed upon the recommendation of the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker,” the 24-page ruling adds. “The Governor nominated a resident of Camden County to one of the vacant seats on the Board.”
     Christie named Perez to a six-year, unpaid term to the Board of Governors, which appoints Rutgers’ president and sets the university’s tuition, in 2012.
     Perez, a 1986 graduate of Rutgers-Newark’s law school, serves as president of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey. His daughter is a senior at Rutgers.
     “This appointment was clearly an illegal action,” Sweeney said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the court refused to see this for what it was.”

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