New Jersey (STONJ1) Governor Chris Christie said acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf has added a residence in a town represented by a Republican state senator since he was nominated more than a year ago.
Cerf, who has a home in Montclair, is renting an apartment in Montgomery to be closer to Trenton, Christie told reporters today at the Statehouse. Montclair is in Essex County, which is represented by Senator Ronald Rice, a Democrat.
Rice has blocked confirmation hearings on Cerf by invoking senatorial courtesy, which allows the lawmaker in that chamber from a nominee’s home county to prevent consideration. Christie denied that Cerf’s rental in Montgomery, which is in Somerset County and is represented by Republican Senator Christopher Bateman, was aimed at circumventing Rice.
“He decided to change his residence to have a place that’s closer to work -- I can tell you the commissioner works long hours and takes his job seriously,” said Christie, a first-term Republican. “If it wasn’t for the completely baseless use of senatorial courtesy by Senator Rice, he would have been confirmed more than a year ago, and when he got this place in Montgomery nobody would care less.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee had scheduled a Feb. 16 hearing on Cerf’s nomination, which has been canceled. “There are concerns raised about his residency,” Derek Roseman, a spokesman for committee chairman Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat, said in an e-mail.
Christie nominated Cerf, a former deputy chancellor of the New York City school system, in December 2010 to replace Bret Schundler, whom the governor fired after the state lost $400 million in federal school funding because of an error on an application.
In addition to holding a lease on the Montgomery apartment, Cerf has changed his driver’s license and voter records to reflect the change, and has been paying utilities there, according to Christie.
Cerf’s wife and teenage daughter remain in Montclair, and Cerf may spend some nights there according to his schedule, the governor said. Christie likened the situation to residents with second homes at the Jersey Shore or elsewhere in the state.
Justin Barra, a spokesman for the state Education Department, declined in an e-mail to comment.
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