Sure, it was only a story for a couple of days, but the "forbidden" e-mails between former Governor Jon Corzine and his ex-girlfriend and powerful union leader Carla Katz provide an excellent case study on how NOT to handle such a sensitive and complex political and PR issue. Corzine led a two-year battle to keep these 123 e-mails private between him and Katz at a time when the state was negotiating a massive contract with thousands of state workers who Katz represented on behalf of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The negotiations were intense and heated and there were lots of sensitive and difficult issues to resolve between the state and its employees at a time where New Jersey's fiscal crisis was beginning to become clear.
Corzine told me on many occasions in television interviews on PBS that these e-mails were in fact private and in no way had anything to do with the negotiations. Further, Corzine insisted that he and Katz communicated in the same way he would have done with other union leaders. He said at the time; "This is not an ongoing, active relationship ... It's no different than my relationship with (state AFL-CIO leader) Charlie Wowkanech". But that just wasn't true.