Former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman wants federal authorities to probe allegations that confidential state police files were used to damage her administration and improve the fortunes of then-gubernatorial candidate James E. McGreevey. The Newark Star-Ledger quoted an angry Whitman as saying, “there needs to be an investigation,” after The Star-Ledger reported statements by retired State Police Lt. Vincent Bellaran about a covert operation orchestrated largely by former state Sen. John Lynch to use confidential police records for political purposes.
Bellaran said that between 1999 and early 2002, he and Lt. Col. Cajetan “Tommy” DeFeo passed on internal information to Lynch for use in legislative hearings on racial profiling. Some of that information became the basis of newspaper stories to embarrass a former top aide to Whitman and a police official who was a Whitman favorite.
“You can’t have the deputy superintendent of the State Police going into offices after dark with a flashlight, which he seems to admit … then passing documents on to someone who was not entitled to the information,” said Whitman, who was besieged in her second term by problems stemming from the police practice of stopping motorists based on their skin color.
DeFeo denies wrongdoing. The goal, he said, was to eliminate racial profiling and help minorities in the state police ranks. Lynch, who was the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, acknowledged that Bellaran was a valuable source of information for the profiling hearings, but denied “anything conspiratorial.”
Lynch told the Star-Ledger that he has yet to see real reform of the state police and public safety department even though his friend McGreevey, a fellow Democrat, has been in office nearly two years. “I don’t see change,” Lynch said. “You hear my anger? It’s just a lot of years of frustration. There was clearly poor judgment by McGreevey in making the appointments that were so central. They didn’t deal with the problems at hand, it’s all status quo again. It’s a joke.”
Much of Lynch’s criticism was directed at McGreevey’s choice of Joseph Santiago, the former Newark police director named by the governor to lead the State Police. Santiago resigned under fire last year.