NorthJersey.com

Judge Tosses Lawsuit Over Christie Travel

The Record (NorthJersey.com) — April 9, 2016

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
STATE HOUSE BUREAU |
The Record

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that tried to force Governor Christie to reimburse taxpayers for the travel-related security costs during his presidential campaign.

The lawsuit was filed last summer, about six weeks after Christie launched his bid for the White House, by liberal advocacy groups New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Working Families Alliance and Blue Wave NJ. The groups argued that taxpayers should not be responsible to pay for Christie's round-the-clock security detail when the travel is for political purposes.

At the time of the lawsuit last August, Christie had billed taxpayers about $185,000 for security the first three months of the year, when he was exploring a White House run. Christie, who dropped out of the race in February, spent 261 full or partial days out of state in 2015, passing on more than $600,000 in security costs to taxpayers.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson dismissed the suit Thursday.

"We're pleased that the court agreed that this was a case lacking merit and had far more to do with taking political shots during a campaign than anything else," Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, said in a statement.

Christie - whose out of state travel of late has been limited to vacation, attending sports and entertainment events and campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — has strongly defended the security billing practice. Since 1984, governors have been required to have constant security from the State Police's Executive Protection Unit.

"You want to change that? Run for office and fix it," Christie said last month.

But critics say Christie can cover the costs some other way, whether through his presidential campaign or out of his own pocket.

"While we are disappointed by the court's decision, we remain committed to shielding New Jersey taxpayers from the outrageous cost of Governor Christie's ambitions," Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families, said in a statement. "If we can't find justice for taxpayers in the courts, then we will aggressively pursue legislative remedies to prevent Chris Christie from wasting more precious public dollars while traveling the country to stump for the likes of Donald Trump."

A bill that would bar governors from using public funds to pay for political out-of-state travel was introduced in the Legislature last year, but it died before a full vote and the legislative session expired.

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