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NJ's top cop asked to explain gov's helicopter use....seems the baseball game wasnt a LONE incident

Posted by on Jun. 4, 2011 at 9:46 AM
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NJ's top cop asked to explain gov's helicopter use

AP

Chris Christie AP - Gov. Chris Christie answers a question Thursday, June 2, 2011, in Denville, N.J., as he says he used ...
By ANGELA DELLI SANTI and BETH DeFALCO, Associated Press Angela Delli Santi And Beth Defalco, Associated Press- Fri Jun 3, 6:01 pm ET

TRENTON, N.J. - Writing a check to cover the cost of two helicopter flights to his son's baseball games seemed to do little to quiet criticism over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's use of the gubernatorial perk.

Now, a legislator has requested that the head of the New Jersey State Police testify before a legislative committee examining Christie's use of state police helicopters for transportation.

A letter was sent Friday from Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, chairwoman of the Homeland Security Committee, to state police Superintendent Rick Fuentes.

Quijano's committee wants to find out who approves helicopter travel, the standards for approval and how flight arrangements are made, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Associated Pres.

"Based on the limited information released from your office, it appears one of the flights was for the governor to attend a charity event at his wife's employer, one flight appears to be just for the lieutenant governor, a couple flights were apparently for TV appearances, and lastly, a couple of flights appear to be for transporting support staff to Atlantic City and the Meadowlands," Quijano wrote.

On Friday, the governor's office declined to release more information on the trips.

"The list we've provided speaks for itself," Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said.

The Assembly hearing is set for June 14. A spokesman for Fuentes said he had not yet received the letter.

Christie and the Republican State Committee reimbursed taxpayers $3,383 for personal and political trips the governor took in the past week.

His office released a log showing that Christie or his staff used the helicopter 35 times. The most common use was for trips to New York City, which were made on nine occasions - including two for media interviews.

Christie took to the podium Thursday using a "good father" defense, saying he didn't make a political calculation about using helicopter to see his son's games and was simply "dealing with the realities of life."

He woke up Friday to stinging editorials for his unapologetic tone; Christie had blamed the story on media theatrics "driven by political hacks who want to score cheap points."

"This is a governor who holds a press conference every time he catches a public official eating lobster on the public dime, or getting free rides on E-ZPass," The Star-Ledger editorial board wrote.

Many residents felt the same.

"If other people did what he did, he would complain about it, saying they were abusing their privileges," said Dan Walker, a 58-year-old computer analyst from Spotswood. "He has no right to complain about anyone else after doing what he did."

At the news conference, Christie said a schedule he couldn't control on Tuesday prompted him to take the helicopter, but police in Montvale said the governor's office made arrangements on Friday for him to fly. Three local police officers were on hand to ensure the landing was safe for the governor and pedestrians in the area.

"From the get-go, he should have taken his money, not our money," said Latisha Dotson, a 31-year-old Camden resident who manages a store. "What else is he doing with our money?"

But others felt the connection to his duties as a father.

"He's trying to be the best he could as a dad and a politician, and make both of those situations work," said Joe Smith, a 38-year-old computer contractor from Basking Ridge. Smith said regardless of Christie's brash remarks Thursday, reimbursing the state was an implicit admission that he'd made a mistake.

The governor's brother used Facebook on Friday to call on Democrats to pass pension and benefits reforms as quickly as they threatened to hold hearings to look into the legality of helicopter use.

"Those issues," Todd Christie wrote, "would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars."

by on Jun. 4, 2011 at 9:46 AM
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