Tag Archive: Robert Hanna

What’s Happening Today Tue. 12/03/2013

Events today: Board of State Canvassers meets to certify the results of last month’s general election, noon, in the Statehouse Annex’s Committee Room 5. Communications Workers of America union endorses Councilman Ras Baraka in the Newark mayoral election, 12:30pm at CWA Local 1037′s office in Newark. Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, 9:15am holds its annual summit, with speakers Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera and union executive Milly Silva, 11:30am, Crowne Plaza Monroe, South Brunswick. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker visits Cumberland County.

Where Are They Today?

Gov. Chris Christie resigned his job as New Jersey’s U. S. Attorney in 2009 to become governor. He brought with him an extraordinarily large number of former staff members from the Attorney’s Office. Who are some of these people and where are they today?

  • Paula Dow: Christie’s first cabinet appointee served as NJ’s Attorney General for less than two years and then was named to a NY/NJ Port Authority post by Christie after his nomination of her as a Superior Court Judge ended in a political standoff with the Senate.

  • Phillip Kwon: Appointed First Assistant Attorney General. In 2012 Christie nominated him to the NJ Supreme Court but the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination and he also took a job at the NY/NJ Port Authority.

  • Marc Ferzan: Appointed Executive Assistant NJ attorney general. Then after Sandy he was appointed Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding – “the Sandy Czar.”

  • Ralph J. Marra Jr.: appointed to the top legal post at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

  • Marc Larkins Appointed Executive Director of the NJ School Development Authority Board.

  • Lee Solomon: Appointed President of the Board of Public Utilities and then returned to one of his prior positions as a NJ Superior Court judge.

  • Robert Hanna: Appointed Director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s office and then head of the NJ Board of Public Utilities, replacing Lee Solomon, where he remains today. Christie also nominated him last year to the NJ Supreme Court, but the Senate has not acted on the nomination.

  • Stephen Taylor: Appointed Director of Criminal Justice in the AG’s office.

  • Deborah Gramiccioni:  Appointed Director of the Governor’s Authorities Unit, then Deputy Chief of Staff.

  • Jeffrey S. Chiesa: Appointed Christie’s Chief Counsel. Then in 2011 Attorney General, replacing Paula Dow. Then interim U.S. Senator following Frank Lautenberg’s death and until Cory Booker became U.S. Senator. Chiesa is now with a prominent NJ law firm.

  • Kevin M. O’Dowd: Appointed Deputy Chief Counsel, then in 2011 appointed Chief of Staff replacing Richard Bagger. Yesterday he was nominated to be Attorney General.

  • Charles McKenna: Appointed Head of Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, then replaced Jeff Chiesa as Chief Counsel.

  • Michele Brown: Governor’s Appointments Counsel, then in 2012 CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.  

  • Paul Matey: Appointed Christie’s Senior Counsel; in 2011 he replaced O’Dowd as Deputy Chief Counsel.  

    Make of this what you will: A raiding of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Christie creating a “Law and Order” governor’s office, Christie finding comfort with loyal former employees, etc. These attorneys have played key (successful and unsuccessful) roles in Christie’s administration. However, in 2011 Christie with remarkable candor and bravado said, “It’s my agenda, It’s not Kevin’s agenda or Rich’s agenda or Charlie’s agenda, or Jeff’s agenda. It’s my agenda…”

  • Help Wanted. $125K/year. No Experience Necessary

    Well, that’s not quite true. As Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula explains, “All it takes is to be a friend of the governor.”

    Ever since he took office, Governor Christie has not only established a horrible record on energy and the environment, but he has misused funds earmarked for energy improvement and job creation as a gimmick to balance the budget.

    To get one of these high-paying jobs described in the headline under the Christie administration, all you need to do is to get the governor to appoint you as a commissioner on the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).

    As Chivukula, chairman of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, explains in the video below, the BPU was established as an independent agency whose charter is to work for the ratepayers (that’s us), and promote programs that conserve energy and save the environment. But instead, the Board has become a patronage pit for the governor’s cronies (three out of the five commissioners were appointed by Christie) most of whom Chivukula believes do not have the background to do the work that they are being paid for. To add insult to injury, Chivukula points out that the BPU has hired some very expensive consultants to compensate for the gaps in the board members’ experience. Heck, you don’t even need to be a Christie Crony to be appointed. Being the spouse of a Christie Crony is qualification enough – as long as you’re a tennis official.

    To be fair to the governor, the lack of qualification of BPU members is not entirely his fault. Commissioners are appointed by the governor but must be confirmed by the Democratically-controlled Senate. None of the current BPU commissioners have any educational qualifications in science, technology, or the environment. Only Commissioner Fox (appointed by Governor McGreevey) has had extensive relevant career experience. Yet, when Bob Hanna, now a State Supreme Court nominee, was brought to the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation as president of the BPU in December, 2011, not a single relevant question was asked. As Assemblyman Chivukula puts it, “The BPU should also not be a waiting area for gubernatorial political appointees until they get nominated for judicial positions.”

    In our conversation, Chivukula also spoke about several bills that he and Assemblyman Joe Cryan are sponsoring in response to Hurricane Sandy (starting at 5:45 in the video).

    Christie’s NJ Supreme Court Nominees: Where’s The Democrat?

    Following the Senate’s rejection in March of Gov. Christie’s last two nominees to the N. J. Supreme Court, the Star-Ledger reported Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement, Democrats would stand their ground until Christie offered a candidate that preserved the political balance of the court. His message: Send us a Democrat. Currently the court has two Republicans: Justices Helen Hoens and Anne Patterson, two Democrats: Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and  Justice Barry Albin, and one Independent (often viewed as a Republican): Justice Jaynee Lavecchia.

    Now in what Christie bills as a “compromise,” he has nominated one Republican, David Bauman, and another individual, Robert Hanna, who Christie labels an Independent.

    As John Schoonejongen, Statehouse Bureau points out,“Hanna has a long association with Christie in both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and in his administration. Christie said he is the only Republican candidate to whom Hanna has contributed money.” Hanna served in the Christie administration for two years as Director of the Division of Law and Assistant Attorney General before the Governor nominated him to be President of the Board of Public Utilities. The two individuals even worked together authoring an article defending the controversial practice of deferred prosecution.

    With Christie’s two new nominees, our Supreme Court would have seven members but only two Democrats – hardly balanced, nor appropriate for a blue state or a blue legislature. Appointing Hanna is no compromise. Governor Christie, nominate a Democrat.  

    Hanna & Bauman – Christie’s latest nominees to NJ Supreme Court

    As Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg notes, Christie announced two nominees – Robert Hanna and David Bauman – to the NJ Supreme Court today. Weinberg, of course, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds the power to confirm or deny these nominees. Star-Ledger quotes Christie as discussing the nominees with Weinberg’s Senate leadership partner, Senate President Steve Sweeney, for two months. Christie is denying any dealmaking with Sweeney.  

    Christie has often drawn on former underlings of his tenure as US Attorney for promotion to plum jobs; Hanna was already serving in the civil division there for 12 years before Christie was appointed US Attorney by President George W. Bush. Christie named Hanna BPU president about a year ago. Prior to that, he was Director of the NJ Division of Law (a Christie appointment as governor-elect). Before that Hanna was with the politically-connected law firm of Gibbons P.C. (where Christie pal Bill Palatucci just landed as special counsel after his so-very-quiet exit from his privatized halfway house business, not long after becoming a named defendant in a wrongful death suit, and the subject of both a New York Times special investigation and NJ legislative hearings).

    Hanna, 54, is unaffiliated, says Christie. Bauman is a registered Republican.

    Christie, whose efforts to politicize New Jersey’s courts are obvious to anyone paying attention, hoped to fully stock the high court with Republicans. That effort was tested earlier this year with his nominations of Philip Kwon and Bruce Harris. Harris is a Republican, Kwon an unaffiliated voter. But both were rejected by the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee on the basis of both partisan balance (Kwon was a longtime member of the GOP before moving to NJ) and qualifications. Both have now been farmed to jobs at the Port Authority of NY/NJ, something Christie can and does make happen for those needing a soft landing.

    Like Kwon/Harris, the Bauman/Hanna nominations have an attractive component of diversity to offer the high court. If confirmed, Bauman would be the first Asian American justice to serve the NJ Supreme Court; he was the first appointed to the Monmouth County Superior Court just four years ago.  


    I observed the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today and expected fireworks in the hearing to confirm Bob Hanna to be President of the Board of Public Utilities, but instead of fireworks, we got a dud.

    Hanna’s confirmation was a love fest, and the committee unanimously advanced it to the full Senate for final approval. From what I can tell, although Hanna has had limited experience in the world of utilities and telecommunications, he’s a well-respected lawyer and public servant, and there’s no reason to deny the Governor’s appointment of Mr. Hanna to the BPU.

    But our state senators are not shrinking violets (more on this later), and this hearing was a golden opportunity to raise some concerns and get Hanna’s response. No doubt he agrees with the Governor on the important issues facing the board, but he should have been asked about the state’s withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (right after the Governor had a secret meeting with the Koch Brothers), the impact of the Governor’s de-emphasis of renewable energy in the state’s Energy Master Plan, and the Governor’s hidden tax increase when Mr. Christie took the money from the Societal Benefit Fund (a surcharge on your utility bill) to help balance the budget instead of investing those dollars in clean energy.