Christie Wants to Keep Expense Details Secret

     TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – Gov. Chris Christie should not have to turn over his credit card expenses in response to an investigative reporter’s lawsuit because doing so could cause a serious security breach, his office told a county court.
     New Jersey Watchdog reporter Mark Lagerkvist brought the suit against Christie’s office earlier this year after the governor refused to divulge monthly statements and other documents related to records showing that he charged nearly $800,000 to American Express cards for the travel costs of his state police security detail.
     Watchdog says travel expenses for New Jersey’s executive protection unit have jumped “are 18 times higher than when Christie took office.”
     It says the Republican governor’s frequent out-of-state trips in pursuit of greater political ambitions are to blame, but Christie’s security expenses are also five times higher than the other gubernatorial contender for the White House, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.
     Lagerkvist wants the Mercer County Superior Court to have Christie produce date-by-date and transaction-by-transaction credit card breakdowns, but Deputy Attorney General Daniel Vannella emphasized the confidentiality of those records in a May 8 letter to Judge Mary Jacobson.
     Noting that monthly credit card statements include the names of security unit members, the number of those members guarding the governor, and where they would be stationed, Vannella said releasing such records in any form “would expose security measures that would compromise the security of the governor, other high-ranking officials, and innocent bystanders.”
     “Should potential malefactors learn how [New Jersey’s executive protection unit] secures the governor, they can also learn how to circumvent those protective measures,” such as “accurate predictions for his future travels,” Vannella added.
     Watchdog has reported that Christie spent nearly $65,000 on security in 2010, his first year in office, then doubled in 2011 and nearly doubled again in 2012.
     Christie’s office initially tried to shut down Lagerkvist’s request by saying the Custodian of Records had not kept monthly credit card statements prior to February 2010.
     Lagerkvist had offered to accept records in which the officers on Christie’s security team – members of a special state police unit – are blacked out or encoded, but the governor’s office allegedly said even encoded records could be used to guess how many troopers had been assigned to the detail.
     Vannella’s letter reveals that Lagerkvist rejected an offer from Records Custodian Heather Taylor, named as a defendant to the lawsuit, to provide Lagerkvist with yearly credit card summaries broken down by American Express.
     Christie’s lawyers say precedent backs confidentiality, pointing to the 2014 Mercer Superior Court case N.Y. Public Radio v. Office of the Governor, an unsuccessful bid for the security costs related to one of Gov. Christie’s trips to Florida.
     Lagerkvist is also fighting Christie’s office for a list of reporters and other media recipients included in “govnews” email blasts his office sends.
     On this matter, Vannella told the court that Taylor gave Lagerkvist a copy of the Jan. 26 “govnews” email blast recipients, including those blind-copied on the message. He says Lagerkvist’s demands are “impossible” to satisfy because the list constantly fluctuates.
     The case is scheduled for a May 28 hearing.
     Watchdog reported earlier this month that state lawmakers are pushing legislation to exposure of how Christie spends his $95,000 annual expense account, a fund that comes in addition to the governor’s $175,000-a-year salary.
     Christie has reportedly omitted such payments on his federal income tax returns from 2010 to 2013.

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