The Murphy administration is preparing to oust Chris Christie loyalist Michele Brown from her $450,000-a-year job at Choose New Jersey and replace her with someone aligned with Gov. Phil Murphy, according to four sources with knowledge of the new administration’s thinking.
Choose New Jersey is a privately-funded group formed by Christie allies in 2010 to help attract new businesses to the state. While Murphy can’t technically pick a new president/CEO to replace Brown, sources say that the members of the group’s board members are unlikely to reject the new governor’s recommendation.
Several names are reportedly under consideration for the post, including José Lozano, who ran Murphy’s transition team, and Allison Kopicki, a transition policy advisor and former New York Times polling editor. Hackensack Meridian Health, where Lozano is vice president and chief of staff, has a seat on the Choose New Jersey board.
In the past, Choose New Jersey has been criticized for raising money from industries and individuals that state law prevented from contributing directly to Christie and other candidates for public office. The group picked up the tab for much of Christie’s foreign trade missions to Israel, Mexico, Jordan and the United Kingdom as the governor was preparing to run for president.
Brown has close personal ties to Christie from their time at the U.S. Attorney’s office, and her financial ties to the governor became an issue in the 2009 gubernatorial campaign when State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, said Brown should recuse herself from reviewing Freedom of Information Act requests dealing with Christie’s travel as a federal prosecutor. She later joined Christie’s staff and became executive director of the state Economic Development Authority.
In May 2017, Christie filed a notice of intent to nominate Brown to a Superior Court judgeship, but Brown inexplicably withdrew her name from consideration a few days later.
Among those holding organizations holding Choose New Jersey board seats include public utilities, labor unions, banking, and health care companies.