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Gov. Christie’s Office Controls Pinelands Commission Press Statements

Christie’s Trenton Attack & Spin Machine Reaches Into the Pinelands

The Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission made a stunning – and I presume inadvertent – disclosure during Friday’s P&I Committee meeting that should be highlighted.

During the public comment opportunity, I began my remarks by asking the Committee if the Commission had a policy and procedure for releasing press statements.

Chairman Lohbauer just shrugged his shoulders, which I took for a NO.

So, I then commented that I assumed that left press statements up to the judgement of Executive Director Wittenberg.

I then took strong objection to Wittenberg’s statement of January 30, 2015 regarding the SJG MOA emails, which was reported by NJ Spotlight:

“What the emails show is the governor’s office was involved, almost in real time” as Lloyd was to be confronted with the conflict allegation, said activist Bill Wolfe, a former state environmental analyst now with the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

In a terse prepared statement, commission director Wittenberg has said there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the email records, despite the criticism of Wolfe and others.

“Their comments are pure hyperbole and show a lack of understanding of the commission’s rules and procedures. The commission prides itself on being transparent and provides for and encourages public comment at all of our meetings. It is unfortunate that a few individuals take these opportunities to mislead, disrupt and promote their own agendas.”

Citing my training and 30 years of professional experience in environmental planning and regulation, I noted that Wittenberg’s statement was ad hominem, unprofessional, and false.

At this point, Wittenberg interrupted my testimony to state that press statements were approved by the Governor’s Office.

So, it sure seemed like Wittenberg was pointing the finger of blame to the Gov.’s Office for the press statement I criticized.

So now the plot thickens and Wittenberg’s revelation raises even more troubling questions:

1. Why would the Gov.’s Office have review and approval power over the press statements of the independent Pinelands Commission?

2. Why would the Pinelands Commission do the Governor’s bidding?

3. Who was the attack dog in that Jan 30 press statement? Was it written by the Gov.’s Office or the Pinelands staff?

Under the NJ Pinelands Protection Act, the Gov. has a negative power to veto the minutes of the Commission and block them from taking action.

But the Gov. has no power over press statements of the Commission or its staff.

The Executive Director reports to the Commission, not the Governor.

So, I can only assume that the attack dogs in the Gov.’s press Office wrote that Jan 30 statement as an attack on the messenger in a transparent attempt to undermine the credibility of their critics and deflect attention.

I can understand that, because I called out the Gov.’s Office for their corrupt role in the attack on Commissioner Ed Lloyd that forced his recusal.

And I’ve been writing about the corrupt relationships between South Jersey Gas, BL England (Rockland Capital), lobbyists at the Wolf & Samson law firm, the Governor’s Office and the Pinelands Commission.

So, I can understand their motivation to prevent that story from getting media legs or the investigation it deserves.

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