TRENTON - A hearing over the state budget turned into a Sandy grilling Monday, as Democrats spent several hours questioning the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.

Every spring, the legislature's budget committees sit down with the heads of various state government offices to hash out their finances.

"We're supposed to be standing for openness and transparency and this does not look like openness and transparency unfortunately," said Assemblyman Gary Schaer.

Richard Constable, head of the Department of Community Affairs and an overseer of the state's largest Sandy recovery program, found himself defending the Christie administration against pretty rough criticism.
Constable called the suggestion that the administration is discriminating in the way it administers housing dollars offensive.

Constable said critics incorrectly skewed the stats, and FEMA data mistakenly led some homeowners to appear ineligible and be denied funding. He says that's being cleaned up with another round of appeals.
Democrats also tried to dig into how DCA hands out recovery contracts, and whether it's ready to hand out another round of federal aid. "Eight years after Katrina, the federal government went in, HUD did an audit and they're seeking to recapture approximately $700 million from the state of Louisiana," Constable said. "We don't want to see something like that happen in New Jersey."
Budget hearings will continue throughout the month.