The Fair Share Housing Center filed a lawsuitagainst the state Wednesday in the Law Division of state Superior Court, alleging the Christie administration has failed to make public the most basic documents explaining how it is determined who gets recovery money and who doesn't.
The action comes one month after a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly environment committees, at which angry homeowners and renters told of being lost in a bureaucratic maze when trying to secure recovery funds.
Union Beach, N.J., resident Simone Dannecker told lawmakers at the Aug. 15 hearing in Atlantic City that seeking repair money for her home, located three blocks from Raritan Bay, was like having a second job.
"I work a part-time job at a bank as a teller, and I work another job filling out our applications and paperwork on our home, trying to cut through the red tape and jump through the hoops," Dannecker said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Thousands of families have been shut out from Sandy rebuilding funds. The lawsuit claims the public is in the dark on guidelines being used to determine which applications get approved.
The programs are administered by the state Department of Community Affairs. Spokeswoman Tammori Petty said officials had "no comment on that matter."
Fair Share Housing Center staff attorney Adam Gordon said the group can't help people who have been denied grants until more data about why they were denied is obtained.
"I can't believe DCA has nothing to say about why it won't tell Sandy victims why they can't get money to rebuild," Gordon said.
Gordon said the litigation stems from the state's failure to provide any documents for more than six weeks in response to a July 31 Open Public Records Act request for information on policies by which families are being told they are ineligible for Sandy rebuilding grants.
The records request sought information on the selection process for the two largest Sandy rebuilding grants to individual homeowners, theReconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program and the Resettlement Grant.
Also included in the request was information on the main Sandy rebuilding grant for landlords, the Fund for Rehabilitation of Small Rental Properties.
The three programs represent $850 million, or 46% of the federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds from the federal Sandy recovery package.
The Fair Share Housing Center also asked that the information be posted online.
State officials asked for several extensions of time, pushing the date to comply with the requests to Sept. 20, or 51 days after the initial filing.
The complaint filed Wednesday asks the court to schedule a case conference within a week and requests immediate disclosure of the documents.
In July, it was reported that roughly 2,800 applicants to the two programs were deemed ineligible. At the time, residents who received notices of ineligibility were told to appeal if they believed a decision on their application was made in error.
Contributing: Ken Serrano, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press