The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee yesterday was granted the power through a Senate vote (21-14) to subpoena two key individuals in the state’s failed Race to the Top (RTT) federal education grant application. The committee met following the Senate session and formally issued subpoenas to former state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler and Larry Berger, CEO of Wireless Generation, the vendor chosen by the state to compile its application.
Senate Majority Leader and the committee chair Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) called the action “extraordinary but necessary,” because of the administrative roadblocks that have allowed officials to keep vital documents out of lawmakers’ hands, despite an extensive request for information under the state’s Open Public Records Act. Sen. Buono added, “As people hide behind OPRA, the more it raises the question of what they are hiding. Residents deserve answers, plain and simple.”
There had been an earlier agreement brokered between Governor Christie and Sen. President Sweeney that permitted release of partial OPRA material. However, to her credit, Sen. Buono has been persistent. Now with two key participants in the grant process under subpoena, more useful information should become available.
The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee will convene its RTTT hearing on Thursday, October 7. The committee’s subpoenas will seek testimony from the two individuals and demand they release all correspondence and documents related to the application. According to PolitickerNJ Sen. Buono told the Senate, “If the testimony taken and the documents produced at this hearing open an area of inquiry that suggests that we need broader subpoena power I’ll be back.”