Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) asked Attorney General Gurbir Grewal Tuesday to come before a public meeting of Sussex County taxpayers to explain the process behind the Murphy administration’s Sanctuary State directive. The directive, which is highly controversial, formed a major part of then-gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy’s political campaign in 2017. The political rhetoric from that campaign became a law enforcement directive after Murphy assumed office the following year.
“We want to know if this directive is about law enforcement or about politics. We want to know what the thinking was behind it and who was involved,” Space said.
“The Murphy administration is trying to strong-arm local law enforcement and elected county constitutional officers using the blunt force of the attorney general’s office. We know it fulfills a plank of Murphy’s campaign platform, but is there a legitimate law enforcement rationale?,” Wirths said.
Many law enforcement officers on the local, state, and federal levels argue that the Sanctuary State directive undermines their efforts to keep communities safe, Space and Wirths said.
“Is there any data to back up what the Murphy administration is telling us,” Space said, “or is this just a case of using the power of government to achieve a political goal – and the taxpayers be damned.
Sussex County Sheriff Mike Strada believes that Murphy’s Sanctuary State directive undermines the safety of his community and has remained steadfast in his opposition to it. In April, Sussex County’s Freeholders voted to place a public question on the ballot in November that allows voters to weigh in on the matter, with the choice of directing the Sheriff to either obey federal law or follow Murphy’s directive, Space and Wirths said.
In response to the Freeholders allowing the voters a say, the Murphy administration directed Attorney General Grewal to threaten county taxpayers with a lawsuit. In a series of bullying letters, Grewal has demanded that the people not be given the opportunity to vote. The Freeholders are resolved to stand with taxpayers and their right to vote. They have responded by hiring a special counsel to address and defeat the legal arguments advanced by the Attorney General in his correspondence, Space and Wirths said.
The legislators – who represent Sussex County – support the right of voters to advise the Sheriff’s office, an elected constitutional office for which they pay for entirely out of their own property taxes. “If Murphy wants to tell us what to do,” Space added, “He should start by bringing a check made out to the taxpayers of Sussex County.”
“Governor Murphy has used bullying tactics to try to strip the right to vote from the hard-working taxpayers of Sussex County. His excuse is that it is a law enforcement directive. It’s time for the people to know what’s behind all this. Does it have anything to do with law enforcement at all, or is it all just about left-winged politics?,” Wirths said.
Whether or not Attorney General Grewal responds in the affirmative, a public meeting will be held by the appropriate body to discuss Governor Murphy’s political promise and the resulting directive from Attorney General Grewal, Space and Wirths said.