TRENTON - A top Republican whose lawsuit prompted a judge to order Gov. Corzine to release e-mails exchanged with a union leader Corzine dated is willing to make a deal.
But the governor isn't.
Tom Wilson, the state Republican Party chairman, said yesterday that he would dismiss his lawsuit if Corzine released the e-mails and paid Wilson's more than $70,000 in legal costs.
He said that would avoid having the judge's decision tomorrow become legal precedent in disputes over executive privilege.
In a letter to Corzine, Wilson said the deal would "address your concerns that the executive privilege not be eroded while allowing the public to decide for themselves if your conduct was appropriate."
"Thanks, but no thanks," Corzine spokeswoman Deborah Howlett said.
Corzine has said he plans to appeal Judge Paul Innes' decision and ask the court stay release of the e-mails he and his staff exchanged with Carla Katz, the union leader.
"The decision recognizes the long-established legal principle that a governor has a right to have candid and private conversations with others, but the judge defined that privilege quite narrowly," Howlett said. "It is an issue that should be addressed, especially in this rapidly expanding digital age."
Katz, who dated Corzine from 2002 to 2004, is president of Communications Workers of America Local 1034, which represents 10,000 state workers. Wilson, questioning whether Corzine and Katz's relationship tainted state-worker contract talks in 2006 and 2007, sued for the release of the e-mails.
Innes ruled that Corzine's relationship with Katz had created "a clear potential for conflict."
"The public has a right to know whether the relationship between the governor and Ms. Katz had any improper influence on the governor's paramount obligation to serve the interest of the citizens of New Jersey first," he wrote.
Corzine said the e-mails were private and protected by executive privilege. But Wilson, in his letter to Corzine, said Innes' ruling likely wouldn't influence future governors because of the unique relationship involving Katz. An unsuccessful appeal, Wilson said, would bind future courts and governors.
"In the end, you would be responsible for the deterioration of executive privilege," he wrote. "This can be avoided."
But Howlett said the legal process needed to advance.