TRENTON - Gov. Corzine yesterday refused to say whether he and state workers-union leader Carla Katz, his former girlfriend, exchanged e-mails during recent contract talks.
The New Jersey Republican State Committee filed a public-records request Tuesday seeking any e-mails between the two to see whether Corzine's romantic and financial dealings with Katz influenced his decisions. The Associated Press also has filed a public-records request for any e-mails between Corzine and Katz.
The requests seek e-mails from both Corzine's state and personal e-mail accounts.
"I'm having this reviewed by our lawyers and I'll speak to it when I get that information," Corzine said yesterday. "It's a complicated law. I'll wait to hear back" before responding to questions, Corzine said. Katz declined to comment.
Tom Wilson, the state Republican Party chairman, said Corzine's answer sounded like something a lawyer told him to say.
"That answer would indicate that, in fact, the governor and Carla Katz did exchange e-mails during the negotiations, and they're just trying to see if they can prevent the public from seeing them," Wilson said. "Jon Corzine's handling of this matter has gone from absurd to ridiculous. If he has nothing to hide, then why is he hiding?"
Corzine and Katz have denied that their past relationship - which involved Corzine giving Katz $470,000 to buy a house, and other gifts he has refused to specify - created a conflict of interest during negotiations.
The Democratic governor continued to make that argument yesterday. "It certainly did not change the outcome of the bargaining, which is the essence of this issue," he said.
The tentative contract between Corzine's administration and state workers' unions would increase salaries by 13 percent over four years but require state workers to pay more toward health care and pensions.
Katz, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1034, opposes the deal, as does another CWA local; five other CWA officials support the proposed agreement. Union members are voting through mail on the proposal, with votes to be counted April 12.
Although Corzine wouldn't detail whether he and Katz exchanged e-mails during contract talks, he insisted nothing untoward had happened.
"I know that the bargaining was done at the bargaining table, pure and simple, end of conversation," he said.
On Monday, Republican Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan asked Corzine's ethics advisory panel to investigate the gifts and alleged conflict.
The panel includes former Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. O'Hern Jr. and former state Attorney General John Farmer Jr. Both have declined to comment on how the panel might proceed.
Corzine said he would cooperate if they asked questions. However, he said he doubted that the panel has authority over what he did before he became governor in January 2006, adding: "My actions as an individual prior to becoming governor don't apply in this situation."