It didn’t take long for Chris Christie to react to a video of his education commissioner that contradicted his public assertion that New Jersey had supplied the correct numbers for the Race to the Top fund in Washington. Christie fired Bret Schundler after the video from the Race to the Top review showed that Schundler had not provided the numbers in question:
Gov. Chris Christie, reacting swiftly to a brewing crisis over a failed federal grant application, has fired Department of Education Commissioner Bret Schundler.
Schundler was let go by Christie this morning following the release of a video by the federal Department of Education that contradicted Schundler’s assertion that he provided federal Race to the Top grant application reviewers with correct state aid numbers after an error in the documents was revealed.
“I was extremely disappointed to learn that the videotape of the Race to the Top presentation was not consistent with the information provided to me by the New Jersey Department of Education and which I then conveyed to the people of New Jersey. As a result, I ordered an end to Bret Schundler’s service as New Jersey’s Education Commissioner and as a member of my administration,” Christie said in a statement issued at 12:30 p.m. today.
Christie had relied on Schundler’s insistence that his team had provided the data to the Obama administration to blast the White House for being too rigid about paperwork rather than relying on the data. The Department of Education responded by publishing the review video, putting Christie in a tough spot. He had little choice but to give a strong reaction to the revelation.
Not that Schundler didn’t deserve it, if the evidence is complete. Not only did his team botch the presentation, he apparently deceived his boss about the situation rather than just admit to the error. Executives can deal with failure, but deception is another thing entirely. If an executive can’t trust his staff, then he or she has to find replacements more worthy of trust. That’s probably more true in politics than in the private sector, but it’s true enough in all arenas to know that Schundler couldn’t expect to keep his job after this.
By taking action, Christie can minimize the embarrassment, but it’s not going to be an overall plus for him; it will just limit the damage and bring the incident to a swift conclusion.
Update: This won’t improve matters:
Said Schundler: “I asked if they would mind writing a termination letter, instead of a resignation letter, because I do have a mortgage to pay, and I do have a daughter who’s just started college. And I, frankly, will need the unemployment insurance benefits until I find another job… And they said fine. They said sure.”
I know that some expressed disappointment in Schundler’s dismissal because he had been seen as an up-and-comer in conservative reformers. Instead of doing the honorable thing and resigning, he waited for Christie to fire him so he could get cash from the public dole. Something tells me that the star has dimmed considerably for Schundler after this.