North Jersey Media Group-owned daily The Record is engaged in a struggle in Mercer County Superior Court with feisty Gov. Chris Christie concerning a request under the Garden State's Open Public Records Act ("OPRA")[N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1] for Hurricane Sandy-related billing records, the Courthouse News Service reports.
The newspaper chain sued the state, the Governor's office and Custodian of Records Hilary Hewitt for invoices involving Witt Group Holdings dated from October 2012, to the present. Witt was hired to provide strategic support and consultation as the state attempted to regain its footing following the physical and economic devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
According to the media company's complaint, records regarding the Witt contract are a matter of public interest because of reports that Witt, along with at least four other companies hired by the state post-Sandy, have made political contributions to GOP causes and the Republican Governors Assn. The newspaper group alleges the state has been dragging its feet in response to the OPRA request, subsequently producing a Witt invoice for the period ending December 2012, in the amount of $553.812 that was unaccompanied by worksheets.
The NJMG claims worksheets ultimately produced by the Governor's Office were overly redacted as authorities relied on an advisory, consultative and deliberative privilege contained in OPRA. Hurricane Sandy was fierce, but "TUOL" suspects it's got nothing on a Gov. Christie agitated by a news media request for transparency.