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Judge: State Must Disclose Records in Long Dispute

A New Jersey judge this week ordered the state Treasury Department to hand over most of the documents requested by a blogger who is investigating the pension deal for a top assistant to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno when she was the Monmouth County sheriff.

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (L) is sworn into office for her second term
New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (L) is sworn into office for her second term (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The ruling Tuesday by Administrative Law Judge Linda Kassekert won’t be the last word in the records battle between investigative journalist Mark Lagerkvist and the state government. The judge has scheduled a hearing on whether the state Treasurers Office withheld the records unlawfully. If she finds it did, the state will have to pay his legal fees.

The whole decision can be reviewed by the state Government Records Council after she decides that matter.

Lagerkvist, a reporter for the nonprofit news blog NJ Watchdog, has been looking into Guadagno’s 2008 hiring of former Prosecutor’s Office investigator Michael Donovan. Under the deal, he got a non-law enforcement title that allowed him to keep collecting an $85,000 state pension on top of his $87,500 salary. Guadagno has said the move saved taxpayer money.

Lagerkvist filed a request in March 2011 for a series of documents about the job and pension.

The Treasury Department said the records were not subject to open-records laws because they dealt with personnel records or deliberative process.

The judge this week said that in reviewing the documents, she found none of them could be wholly exempted as personnel records, though some parts would need to be redacted. She said that one of the 26 documents need not be handed over because it speaks to Guadagno’s office’s decision making process.

Neither Donovan nor a spokesman for Guadagno immediately returned messages from The Associated Press.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

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