Public Records

Without taking the deep dive into New Jersey public records law, one thing is clear — the staff of the Governor’s office operated on a regular basis in rank contempt of the law’s intent — which is to make government accessible and accountable to the taxpayers.

Yesterday, Christina Renna, who worked for Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, testified before the legislature that when her boss asked her to delete an incriminating (no hyperbole) email, she first sent it to her personal email, then deleted it from her state email account.

In other words, she copied it so that she could prove it existed, then lied to her boss about having deleted it. She didn’t delete it. She moved it in order to conceal it from an open investigation — like from a filing cabinet to her briefcase. Fortunately for her, she turned it over promptly when its existence became known … and there’s the point. Its existence became know no thanks to these “public servants” who seemed to routinely conduct the public’s business on their private email accounts so that they could “speak freely.”

Breaking News: If you work for a public agency or for the government and you’re emailing/texting/calling on your personal accounts — those are public records. That’s the public’s business. Likewise, if you get test results from your doctor and they are emailed to your government account, that is NOT a public record. It’s good to keep these things separate, but it’s the content that does that, not which account you use.

Finally, the most disturbing and compelling detail of Ms. Renna’s testimony is how she conveyed the culture of the office in which she worked – politics, intimidation, back biting and intrigue, not unselfish public service and high ethical standards. That tone comes from the top and the Garden State’s Chief Executive cannot retroactively establish it.

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