TRENTON – During a press conference today, Gov. Chris Christie labeled premature any speculation that former Board of Public Utilities head Lee Solomon will be his state Supreme Court nominee and declined to comment on the latest troubles of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack .
Christie said published reports that indicate Solomon, a former assemblymen and a current judge, will be his next high court nominee are premature.
“We are still going through the vetting process,’’ he said. “We have not made an offer to anyone.’’
He sought to discredit the published reports by saying that this is what happens when someone with a little bit of knowledge believes they have the whole story and goes to the press.
When a reporter tried to ask a question about Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari, who has said he will not schedule a hearing until he knows who the second high court nominee will be, Christie cut him off.
“I don’t deal with Scutari. I deal with (Senate President) Steve Sweeney.”
His previous two nominees this year – Phil Kwon and Bruce Harris – were rejected by the Judiciary Committee.
Concerning today’s Senate committee hearing into problems at halfway houses that include escapes, Christie said he has every reason to believe that Chairman Sen. Bob Gordon will conduct a fair hearing.
Christie said that last year walkaways were down 42 percent from 2005, and the state is conducting quadruple the number of inspections.
The FBI raided Mack’s home early Wednesday, then raided City Hall this morning, but Christie would not speculate on whether Mack should step down.
He pointed out that he waited for Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo to officially be indicted before commenting that he should resign, but the Mack situation is not at that level yet.
“Once indicted, he should resign,’’ Christie said of an elected official, “because it puts a cloud over the office.”
While a defendant is presumed innocent, “you don’t have an entitlement to a public office,” and an indictment creates such a huge distraction that it becomes difficult to fulfill one’s duties, he said.
Affordable housing funds
Regarding the court decision on the state’s ability to take control of affordable housing money from municipalities, Christie pointed out that this was not just his decision, but the Legislature’s decision as well.
“The budget this year was a product of the Legislature. There was no negotiation at all, not a minute of negotiation,’’ Christie said.
“It was a majority party decision to use COAH funds as well,’’ he said. “This was one of those rare times when everyone in (state) elected positions was happy. The Democrats wanted to use that money and did use it.”
He pointed out that towns have known for four years about the deadline to use money or lose it. “I don’t believe they didn’t commit this money because they didn’t know how to.’’
Towns have argued that they lacked guidance from the state on how to utilize the affordable housing funds.