Fired N.J. Ed Commissioner Wants Apology
HADDONFIELD, N.J. (CBS 2/AP) – A week after he was fired, New Jersey’s former education commissioner said he isn’t considering taking legal action over his termination.
But in an e-mail Friday to The Associated Press, Bret Schundler said he would like an apology from Gov. Chris Christie.
The biggest uproar in the Republican governor’s young administration has played out over the past two weeks with the discovery that an error in a grant application may have cost New Jersey a $400 million federal education grant.
Christie fired Schundler on Aug. 27 — but not for making the error. He said the education commissioner misled him and his office about what Schundler told the federal Education Department and when, after the error was pointed out last month.
But Schundler has said repeatedly in interviews and e-mails that it was the governor who was misstating what happened — something the governor’s office denies.
In defending Schundler after the error was discovered, Christie said Schundler told him he gave the team reviewing New Jersey’s grant application the right data during an interview in August. But Schundler says the governor and his staff pushed that story, even knowing that Schundler had not given the panel that data.
On Wednesday, Schundler said Christie had “defamed” him and treated him as a scapegoat for the costly error, which he says he is responsible for making. He said his comments Wednesday would be the last he’d say about the mix-up. But Friday, in response to an e-mailed question from the AP, he said he didn’t plan to file a lawsuit.
“All I want is an apology,” he wrote.
In recent days, Christie and spokesman Michael Drewniak have declined to address Schundler’s allegations that the governor misled the public during a news conference about the mix-up.
Asked Friday to respond to Schundler’s latest comments, Drewniak said: “Not interested.”
Both chambers of the state Legislature have invited Schundler to appear at hearings this week about the mix-up. Democratic lawmakers have been taking constant swipes at the governor over the grant application error.
Gov. Chris Christie says he ousted Schundler for misleading the governor and his office about some of the details surrounding the error. “Don’t lie to the governor,” Christie said. “That’s the message.”
Schundler admitted making the mistake after Christie fired him for misleading him about what happened. “It does not make me feel good to have to say that someone misled me,” Christie said. “Especially someone I trusted enough to put in charge of the Department of Education.”
He said his decision to fire Schundler was based solely on business, and that he gave him the ax not because he made the mistake, but because he lied about it.
“He said I updated the panel at the hearing, that we complied with the requirements of the question,” Christie said. “Now you saw the video. Is that what happened?”
He said the state’s schools could’ve used the $400 million – but that ship has sailed.
“We know how the mistake was made, we know when the mistake was made, and the person who was directly responsible for making the mistake has now come forward and taken responsibility for the actual mistake,” the governor said. “What’s now time to do is move on.”
(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)