Chris Christie faced the fury of New Jersey residents after he was caught lounging on a closed beach during last weekend's state government shutdown, and now he might have to deal with the long arm of the law—an attorney has filed an ethics complaint against him, claiming his beach trip constituted a "special benefit" that violates the state's Executive Branch Ethics Standards.
As first reported by NJ.com, NY attorney Mario M. Blanch filed the complaint against Christie over so-called Beachgate yesterday. Blanch claims that Christie, who was photographed with his family on the beach at Island Beach State Park over the weekend in the midst of a budget crisis-related government shutdown, violated state ethics guidelines. That shutdown, which Christie ordered, closed up state-run parks, beaches and historical sites for three days. "The governor and his family hold no special privileges over the residents and citizens of the state of New Jersey," the complaint reads. "By using the park, 'in direct contravention to the shutdown,' [Christie] utilized his position as governor ... to obtain benefits for himself and his family that members of the general public could not enjoy for themselves."
Blanch also pointed out that other families with residences at Island Beach State Park were ordered out of their homes during the budget crisis, and that state-run events like a 5K fundraiser for the New Jersey Special Olympics were canceled.
Christie told reporters that his family was at the governor's official retreat at Island Beach State Park, and he was flown in via helicopter to spend time with them before getting back to work on the budget crisis. "I traveled there, and I traveled back, and I’ll travel back again by helicopter. That's where my family is sleeping so that's where I'll sleep. When I have a choice between sleeping with my family or sleeping alone, I generally like to sleep where my family is," he said. But that explanation didn't fly with constituents, many of whom criticized Christie for enjoying a beach that was closed over his budget standoff with state Democrats. The photo of Christie, which was taken by photographer Andrew Mills and published by NJ Advance Media, went viral and quickly turned into a meme:
— Helen Kennedy (@HelenKennedy) July 3, 2017
— DJ-Kim 📰📉🤦🏻♂️ (@djjkim) July 3, 2017
— Peter Kaufman (@inklake) July 3, 2017
Christie announced a resolution to the budget standoff on Monday and the beaches have since reopened. One New Jersey resident celebrated by making Christie a sand sculpture:
A giant sand sculpture of Chris Christie lounging in a beach chair has appeared on the Jersey Shore. https://t.co/PAz0KInN2p
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 5, 2017
We contacted Blanch, who is asking the governor to "pay restitution in an amount of the fair market value of renting a private beach in New Jersey during the July Fourth weekend," for more information regarding his ethics complaint, and will update if and when we hear back.