N.J. Bridge Probe Panel to Meet With More Documents DueElise Young and Annie Linskey
A New Jersey panel investigating politically motivated traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge scheduled its first review of subpoenaed documents, even as most material has yet to arrive.
Twenty people and organizations with ties to Republican Governor Chris Christie, 51, were ordered to turn over records by a 12-member legislative committee seeking the reason for four days of lane closings in Fort Lee in September. Some members, along with attorneys and legislative aides, yesterday and today reviewed binders of documents, including e-mails, appointment calendars and telephone logs.
The panel called a Feb. 10 meeting for an update on the status of its investigation, according to a notice on the Democratic-controlled legislature’s website. At least part of the 1 p.m. meeting in the Statehouse annex in Trenton will be closed to the public.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat from Englewood and panel member, yesterday described the documents as “a lot of nothing” after she examined them for more than an hour.
Senator Linda Greenstein, a Democrat from Plainsboro, said after a three-hour review today that “there are no revelations.” Redacted material and a lack of follow-up about a referenced meeting raised questions about whether those who provided documents fully complied with the subpoenas, she said.
“The main question is: Were we given everything?” Greenstein said in an interview. “I haven’t found a big smoking gun.”
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a Republican from River Vale, said she has a Feb. 10 appointment to review the material.
Most of the material is pending, as the panel granted deadline extensions. Bridget Anne Kelly, a former Christie deputy chief of staff, and Bill Stepien, an ex-Christie political adviser, have invoked a constitutional right not to incriminate themselves, and won’t comply with the subpoenas.
Christie has said he knew nothing about the closings, from Sept. 9 to 11, as they were happening. The mayor of Fort Lee, Democrat Mark Sokolich, didn’t join colleagues to cross party lines and endorse the governor for a second term in November, and he asked Christie allies at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge, whether the closings were politically motivated.
A cache of e-mails from an earlier round of subpoenas, published by media outlets on Jan. 8, contained a line from Kelly: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” to which David Wildstein, an executive hired by Christie appointee Bill Baroni, responded: “Got it.” Baroni, who was deputy executive director of the authority, and Wildstein, in charge of interstate capital projects, resigned in December; Christie fired Kelly last month.
The four people who submitted documents by the Feb. 3 deadline are connected to the Port Authority, said a person with knowledge of the investigation who, lacking authorization to speak, requested anonymity. Christie’s office has begun providing documents, according to Huttle.
Christie’s office today announced he has scheduled a town-hall style meeting on Feb. 13 in Middletown Township, where he and members of his cabinet will discuss how the state will allot a second round of federal funding to aid in repairing damage caused by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. They also will take questions from the public.
The governor had suspended the meetings prior to last year’s election, in which he won a second term by 22 percentage points. Next week’s session, to be held in the morning, will be the 110th since Christie first took office in January 2010.