After months of denying that he or his staff had anything to do with the George Washington Bridge lane closures that caused massive traffic jams in Fort Lee and caused a public safety mess for the city or that the lane closures were politically motivated, new emails and text messages that were sought by The Record reveal that there were, in fact, political motivations involved.
The messages are replete with references and insults to Fort Lee’s mayor, who had failed to endorse Christie for re-election and they chronicle how they tried to reach Port Authority officials in a vain effort to eliminate the paralyzing gridlock that overwhelmed his town of 35,000 which sits in the shadow of the bridge, the world’s busiest.While Gov. Christie's pal David Wildstein has already been sacked and Bob Baroni, who was Christie's top pick at the Port Authority resigned, the emails reveal that the traffic mess was initiated by those in Christie's inner circle.
The documents obtained by The Record raise serious doubts about months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were part of a traffic study initiated solely by the Port Authority. Instead, they show that one of the governor’s top aides was deeply involved in the decision to choke off the borough’s access to the bridge, and they provide the strongest indication yet that it was part of a politically-motivated vendetta—a notion that Christie has publicly denied.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie’s senior staff, wrote to David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority, on Aug. 13, about three weeks before the closures. Wildstein, the official who ordered the closures and who resigned last month amid the escalating scandal, wrote back: “Got it.”
Other top Christie associates mentioned in or copied on the email chain, all after the top New York appointee at the authority ordered the lanes reopened, include David Samson, the chairman of the agency; Bill Stepien, Christie’s re-election campaign manager and the newly appointed state GOP chairman; and Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman.
Christie has previously said that no one in his staff or campaign was involved in the lane closings, and he has dismissed questions about political retribution by joking that he moved the traffic cones himself.
This shows just how petty that Christie's staffers were in a race that was never going to be all that close.
Not only do the Governor's political appointees at the Port Authority need to be scrutinized for their actions, but the state needs to hold Gov. Christie accountable for this act of partisan hackery that undermined public safety in Fort Lee - all because the mayor wasn't going to endorse the Governor across party lines.
The governor not only needs to apologize to Fort Lee residents, but he needs to clean house of his staffers who went down this path.
I'm sure that local politicians are looking at whether criminal charges could be filed in relation to interfering with public safety by engaging in a political vendetta against the mayor.
It's possibly actionable under the state's Code of Criminal Justice. Various charges could include violating the Execution of Public Duty under 2C:3-3, Crime of corruption of public resources under 2C:27-12, and Obstructing Highways and Other Public Passages under 2C:33-7.
As with the NJ Transit rail fleet flooding debacle, Gov. Christie has let those involved get off easy. That has stop. He has to hold those involved accountable, and he has to take responsibility himself for these actions. Every day that he lets these staffers stay on in Trenton is another day that this scandal grows.
And I'm saying this as someone who voted for Christie. He personally did well in the Sandy aftermath excluding the NJ Transit rail fleet flooding flap, but this action has parallels to the NJ Transit mess. He's let his underlings/staffers get off without so much as a slap on the wrist for engaging in actions that put state assets at risk (in the NJT instance) and lives at risk (in GWB lane closures).
He's got to fire those involved and allow the AG or federal prosecutors to investigate this fully. You can't engage in a political vendetta like this, where lives can be put at risk - and Fort Lee documented how police, fire and EMS were unable to respond quickly due to the traffic jams that blocked most of the city as a result of the lane closures to the bridge.
Cross posted at LGF.
Labels: Chris Christie, Fort Lee, George Washington Bridge, NJ politics, PANY-NJ, public authorities, public safety, scandals