Rice wants to give Christie tools he needs, but also questions Grifa’s big law firm background

For state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark), it’s nothing personal with Gov. Chris Christie’s choice to run the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) or the law firm she represents. 

In fact, the Essex County senator may yet approve attorney Lori Grifa of Montclair, who charges up government and regulatory affairs at Wolff & Samson.

But Rice, who chaired the Senate Committee on Community Affairs for nearly a decade before ending up on the wrong side of a caucus battle last year, questions the big law firm profile of Christie’s choice to run the department.

“I’m concerned about government relationships with big law firms,” Rice told PolitickerNJ.com. “I’ve been around long enough to have observed that the big firms are all related to development and lobbying. There’s a big circle there, depending on who’s in and who’s out. She’s listed as having a regulatory perspective. My question is, ‘Was she looking at eliminating a barrier for her corporate client where there should be a barrier?’ I get real scared when people come to government from big law firms. I know what they do – but understand this is not a reflection on her or her law firm.”

Rice just needs a conversation, he said.

Ideally, he wants Christie, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, chief counsel, and Grifa present.

“I want an opportunity to talk with them before I sign off,” said the senator. “If this is what the governor needs, I respect that, I just need certain assurances. Typically, we get complaints about violations to civil service, how dollars are spent in urban districts and questions about improprieties, dollars town like Cherry Hill or Belleville and Bloomfield don’t get that cities like Newark and Camden receive that may need examining, agencies the state is responsible for that are often times forgotten where there may be mismanagement or waste, etc.

“I need assurances of transparency and accountability from the new commissioner,” Rice added. “If we don’t have that, they can’t cry with credibility about cutting budgets and waste.”

Rice wants to give Christie tools he needs, but also questions Grifa’s big law firm background