Pillets not likely to be charged; state says reporter initially denied having DEP files

Sources say that the Department of Law and Public Safety is not expected to file criminal charges against Jeff Pillets, a Pulitzer-nominated investigative reporter at The Record, after reviewing a report from the Department of Environmental Protection that Pillets removed public documents. David Wald, a spokesman for Attorney General Anne Milgram, had no comment on the Pillets matter. Written statements from Elaine Makatura, a spokesman for DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, and Pillets, are essentially the same — except on one point: the DEP says Pillets initially denied having the missing files, while Pillets says he was a model of cooperation.

The following is a written statement from Makatura, send to PolitickerNJ.com yesterday and today:

“Mr. Pillets called the DEP press office about a DEP matter on Sept 10. After a lengthy phone discussion and providing Mr. Pillets with the information he requested (a few days later), he still wanted to come in and review the files. DEP provided files through its OPRA office to Mr. Pillets who came in to review the files. On Sept 19, after a series of phone discussions, Mr. Pillets acknowledged that he had DEP files in his possession. DEP alerted the AG’s office because it involved a case where there was federal interest. Mr. Pilletts personally returned files later that day and they were taken into custody by a representative of the AG’s office. Since I and my staff were interviewed by an investigator, I assumed there was an investigation. I cannot confirm status. After Mr. Pillets spoke to us at length on the phone about the project and after Mr. Pillets came in to review files, he called again to speak to us about some of the info from the files. At that time, DEP went to get the files before speaking to him and found that a number of files were missing. At first when he was asked if he had the files, he denied. Only after a number of phone calls and DEP telling him we could not answer his questions without the files, did he then admit that perhaps he did have them.”

This is Pillets’ e-mail to PolitickerNJ.com last week, which is reprinted again in entirety:

“You should know the truth about what happened. I went to the DEP to inspect a public file early last week. At 4:30 pm they were closing up shop and I had to get out of there. I left a note on the file asking them not to put it away because I would be back later in the week. As I rushed to leave I inadvertantly mixed in a couple of public files with smoe of my own I was carrying. Later on in the week I called DEP and asked for an interview based on what I had read in the file. I named specific documents I wanted them to review. They said they would review the file again and we agreed to talk Friday. It was only then they discovered that some of ther files I asked them to comment on were missing. I was as surprised as the state was, because I was eager for DEP officials to answer questions on the same files had seen. I then searched and found them mixed in with my own stuff and immediately returned them. There were no troopers involved that I knew of. The press office said they notified the AG because they felt the documents were sensitive and part of the federal investigation. There was an AG rep at the DEP when I returned the documents. I gave then to him. We talked for 5 minutes and that was that.”

At The Record, North Jersey Media Group Vice President/Editor Frank Scandale initially declined to confirm or deny any investigation, and referred questions to the state Department of Law and Public Safety. A week later, Jennifer Borg, the North Jersey Media Group Vice President/General Counsel, told PolitickerNJ.com: “I am unaware of any investigation being conducted by the state or any other authority. And to overstate it, nobody at North Jersey media group is aware of any investigation by the state or any other authority. We have not been contacted by any state or authority, and Jeff has not been contacted by any state or authority. It’s a non-issue. And if the state is indeed investigating Jeff, I wish someone would tell us about it.”

Pillets not likely to be charged; state says reporter initially denied having DEP files