You KNOW things are heading south for embattled NJ Governor Chris Christie when you hear the latest of his maneuvers and it's a doozy. Susana Esposa Guerrero, who has worked in the governor’s counsel’s office with all nine of the senior staffers who recently received subpoenas in the George Washington Bridge scandal was named yesterday, in executive session, to take over the leadership of the state's Ethics Commission.
According to Mark Magyar at NJ Spotlights Christie recommended Guerrero to the Commission and she was voted in without any other candidate being considered.
Interestingly, before Christie took over, the Commission used to select its own Executive Director, but as is becoming more and more clear, Christie in power is really controlling at any and every level. The Commission didn't even announce the appointment.
According to Magyar's article:
Guerrero previously spent eight years working in the law firm of Christie’s most trusted political adviser, William Palatucci, overlapping with Christie’s last four months as a partner at the firm before taking office as U.S. Attorney.Tom Moran of the Star Ledger Editorial Board, in crediting Magyar's coverage said:
Guerrero did not return four phone messages yesterday afternoon even though staffers said each time she was in her office. But Andrew S. Berns, the Republican Denville lawyer who chairs the Ethics Commission, confirmed last night that Guerrero’s appointment “was formalized today by the Ethics Commission by a vote.”
Berns said the Guerrero appointment to replace Peter Tober, whose nomination to a state Superior Court seat was approved by the state Senate January 4, came straight from the governor’s office. “With these sorts of appointments, there is a recommendation made by the Appointments Counsel in the governor’s office and we have a vote and if the person is successful, they get the position,” he said.
Neither the governor's office nor the Ethics Commission made any formal announcement of Guerrero’s appointment yesterday, but her name was listed as executive director on the staff list on the commission’s website.
A child could understand why this is so wrong. Which helps explain why the appointment was made in a closed-door executive session and never announced by either the commission or the governor’s office.Moran's closing comment sums things up pretty neatly:
This commission was rebuilt after former Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned in 2005. It was an attempt to restore faith in the integrity of state government, and a core idea was that the commission should remain at arm's length from the governor’s office.
Until Christie arrived, the commission picked its own executive director after interviewing several candidates. But Christie brought the commission closer under his wing. He recommended Guerrero, and sadly, the commission voted to install her without interviewing a single alternative candidate.
Ask yourself: If Christie wanted a robust and independent watchdog to lift the bar on ethics, would he appoint someone who for years was part of the very team she is supposed to now police?
The governor does not want a watchdog with teeth. Which means he must be nervous about what it would find.