CHERRY HILL, NJ - Claims that documents are drafts not available to public; after failing to implement integrity monitor program, and failing to require HGI to produce reports, still no transparency on Sandy
Trenton, NJ - Late yesterday afternoon, Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) was denied access to integrity monitor reports that are in the possession of the NJ Department of Community Affairs. The reports are required by a state law passed by the Legislature in March 2013 for all Sandy contracts above $5 million. That law, which went into effect immediately upon signing by Governor Christie, was not implemented until February 2014. FSHC requested the integrity monitor reports under the state's public records law. The request was denied because "these reports are draft reports and as such are being exempted in their entirety as advisory and consultative documents." There was no further information given - such as how many reports exist, which contracts they are on, and who had drafted the reports.
"The denial of our public records for the integrity monitor reports request raises questions about why draft reports are being provided to the Christie Administration," said FSHC attorney Kevin Walsh. "Is the Administration editing the reports provided to it? Are integrity monitors functioning in an independent fashion, as intended by the act requiring them, or simply acting as agents of the Administration that only reveal problems if and when the Administration allows them to see the light of day? Will both edited and unedited versions of their reports ever be released?"
The denial of the request for the integrity monitor reports forms a troubling pattern of DCA failing to provide the public with access to required documents, by denying or delaying access to them or by failing to require state contractors to produce them. Fair Share Housing Center's request for weekly and monthly reports on disbursement of funds and program problems that recently fired Sandy contractor HGI was required to produce was also denied this week because DCA claimed that those documents do not exist.
"By editing and hiding the integrity monitor reports, DCA has insulated its troubled leadership of the recovery effort from public scrutiny," Walsh added. "People are mad that the state is doing a bad job and are only going to get madder when the state edits or hides documents the public is entitled to see. "