Christie Hires Ombudsman to Prevent Another Bridge-gate

Friday, 18 Apr 2014 12:27 PM

By Sharon Churcher

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In his latest attempt to counter fallout from the Bridge-gate scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has hired a law school dean to stamp out misconduct by state employees, The Star-Ledger reported.

Patrick Hobbs of Seton Hall University Law School was appointed as an ombudsman in response to recommendations in a review commissioned by the governor of the lane closings that caused turmoil at the George Washington Bridge, according to the newspaper.

The report, which cost taxpayers an estimated $1 million, exonerated Christie but was derided by Democrats as a whitewash by the Republican governor.

Hobbs is a Democrat. He told The Star-Ledger that Christie – who is a Seton Hall graduate – has promised that he will be independent and free to initiate reforms.

"I would not have taken on this role if I did not have those assurances from the governor," he said. "He wants me to come in and do what I think needs to be done, and I'll have all the resources and autonomy to do that."

The Daily Record reported Hobbs, who earns more than $400,000 as Seton Hall’s law dean, will be paid $75,000 for the part-time ombudsman position. "The hiring was widely praised, despite concerns about the independence of the new position," the Daily Record stated.

Bill Buzenberg from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on government accountability and other issues, said Christie deserves "the benefit of the doubt on this one, until it is shown or proven that the ombudsman is not independent and this position is not working correctly." State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat who is one of Christie’s harshest critics, also called Hobbs "a good choice."

Hobbs was appointed in 2004 by former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey to the State Commission of Investigation, an independent agency charged with exposing crime, public corruption and waste of taxpayer money.

Hobbs said he will resign from the commission to take on his new role.

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