Bridge Jam Scandal Grand Jury Subpoenaes Panel’s RecordsTerrence Dopp and David Voreacos
A federal grand jury investigating deliberate traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge subpoenaed a New Jersey legislative committee for all of its records related to the scandal.
The request, dated Jan. 6, seeks “any and all records (in whatever form) either produced to or otherwise obtained” by a panel of lawmakers conducting its own probe. The subpoena also seeks recordings of testimony that former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni gave in November 2013 to an Assembly transportation committee about the tie-ups.
“They just want to be sure they have everything we do,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Teaneck who is co-chair of the legislative panel.
The request shows that U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s probe into the lane closings is active a year after e-mails came to light showing aides and allies of Governor Chris Christie engineered the September 2013 jams as political retribution. Fishman is investigating whether laws were broken when the officials ordered four days of traffic tie-ups in Fort Lee.
Christie, a second-term Republican, has denied knowledge of the plot. He is trying to move past the scandal as he plans to announce whether he will run for president in 2016.
Baroni didn’t return a message left at his Princeton law office. His attorney, Michael B. Himmel, didn’t return a phone call to his New York City office. Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for Fishman in Newark, said his office doesn’t comment on subpoenas or ongoing investigations.
Baroni, a former state senator, was appointed by Christie to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge. He testified to the transportation committee that the lane closings were part of a traffic study -- an explanation that Democrats later deemed untruthful. Baroni resigned less than a month later.
The backups trapped commuters for hours and delayed school buses and emergency vehicles in Fort Lee, whose Democratic mayor didn’t endorse Christie for re-election.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that federal prosecutors also subpoenaed Christie’s re-election campaign for documents relating to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Fulop, a Democrat who took office in July 2013 after winning a non-partisan election, has said that several ranking members of the Christie administration canceled meetings with him later that year when he declined to back the governor’s re-election.
Reilly and Mark Sheridan, an attorney for the Christie re-election campaign, declined to comment.
The Port Authority, controlled by the governors of the two states, oversees the New York City area’s three major airports, four bridges, two tunnels, marine terminals, a commuter rail system and the World Trade Center site.
The subpoena, signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee M. Cortes Jr., gives the panel until Jan. 29 to turn over the records. Weinberg said the committee will comply.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat from Sayreville who is the co-chair of the committee with Weinberg, said the body received a similar subpoena last year.
“I think it’s just for completeness and context,” he said of the request.
A report by the New York law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, commissioned at Christie’s request and released in March, concluded that the governor had no advance knowledge of the traffic jams.
The Gibson report put the blame on Bridget Anne Kelly, an aide to Christie, and David Wildstein, a former interstate capital projects director for the Port Authority. The e-mails showed that Kelly and Wildstein had communicated about the bridge a month prior to the closings. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote. Wildstein replied: “Got it.”