A North Jersey lawyer has lodged an ethics complaint against Gov. Christie over the governor’s trip to a closed state beach during the state government shutdown.
The governor and his family spent time in the sand at Island Beach State Park last weekend, while the rest of the park, along with other state-run beaches and recreation areas, was closed to the public due to a budget impasse.
Christie drew criticism for the oceanfront trip after a photojournalist captured images from a plane of the governor, who was using the governor’s residence at the park that weekend, lounging in a beach chair.
“The governor and his family hold no special privileges over the residents and citizens of the state of New Jersey,” reads the complaint, filed with the State Ethics Commission by Hudson County lawyer Mario M. Blanch, the Jersey Journal reported. “By using the park, ‘in direct contravention to the shutdown,’ [Christie] utilized his position as governor … to obtain benefits for himself and his family that members of the general public could not enjoy for themselves.”
The “Plain Language Guide to New Jersey’s Executive Branch Ethics Standards” says no one in the executive branch may obtain a “special benefit” as a result of their position, the complaint said.
Christie has remained defiant and defended his use of the governor’s residence at Island Beach.
“Well, I’m sorry, they’re not the governor,” Christie said Monday in response to his critics.
The complaint asks for the Ethics Commission to find Christie in violation of state ethics guidelines, impose fines and sanctions, and require the governor to “pay restitution in an amount of the fair market value of renting a private beach in New Jersey during the July Fourth weekend,” according to the Journal.
Christie’s trip to the beach also inspired a legislative proposal. The Associated Press reported that Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski of Middlesex County had introduced a bill that would let the public rent the house on Island Beach State Park that is now reserved for the governor. A second bill would prevent the beach house from being used by a governor during any state shutdown.