STATE — Gov.-elect Christopher Christie said Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo is unqualified for appointment to a seat on the Sports and Exposition Authority.
Spicuzzo, who also has been the Middlesex County Sheriff since 1980, shrugged off a blistering attack by Christie.
Calling Spicuzzo “probably the most unqualified candidate for the Sports Authority you can find” Christie said that Gov. Jon Corzine should withdraw the Sheriff’s nomination. Spicuzzo’s nomination is expected to be approved in the Senate.
In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which cleared his nomination for a vote in the full Senate, Spicuzzo indicated that he thought the Xanadu project – which is in the Meadowlands in Southern Bergen County — was in Middlesex County, telling a Senate committee last week that the project “would bring jobs to Middlesex County taxpayers.”
“I had a stroke, and I made a mistake by not saying that Xanadu would help workers all over the state,” Spicuzzo said. “That’s what I meant to say.”
Spicuzzo also did not know what the Sports Authority budget was, how many employees it had, or what PSL’s were, but he said it was not significant that he could not explain those facts to the committee.
A PSL is a controversial “personal seat license” fee that the Giants and Jets are charging to season ticket holders for the right to buy seats at the new $1.6 billion Meadowlands stadium.
“This is a volunteer program,” Spicuzzo said of the unpaid board seat. “I’m going to listen and learn at first and then make my own decisions.”
Spicuzzo said he has a particular interest in the fate of the state’s horse racing industry, adding that he had served on the state’s racing commission for “seven or eight months.”
He also said he wants to look further into whether NASCAR auto racing might be a good fit for the sports authority.
Christie said the choice of Spicuzzo to replace 15-year Republican board member Ray Bateman — a former state Senate president — was “for purely partisan political reasons.”
“He’s a Republican governor reacting to a Democratic appointee, and naturally he has his thoughts,” Spicuzzo said.
During a news conference in which Christie said he thought that Spicuzzo’s appointment to the Sports and Exposition Authority is wrong, he criticized Assemblyman John McKeon’s proposed legislation to change the way U.S. senators are appointed in the event of a vacancy.
“There are no niceties to be put around this. This is a political power play by the party that’s losing power, and it’s wrong.”
Christie also said pensions for non-government employees should end.