STATE — A series of emails among top officials in the Governor’s Office and executives at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey show that a series of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge for five days in September were carried out to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor because he declined to endorse the Repubican for re-election.
When Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich became the target of retribution after he refused to endorse Repubican Gov. Chris Christie, some top aides to Gov. Chris Christie conspired to cause massive traffic jams in the Bergen County community by shutting down lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
Democrats suggested the lane closures were a political stunt but allies of the governor denied that and Christie himself tried to throw off reporters by joking that he had moved cones in order to block the lanes in question.
The email and text message exchanges were among documents subpoenaed from the authority and individual conspirators as part of a New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee investigation of the incident led by Assemblyman John Wisniewski.
Political allies of the governor concocted a lie about the lane closures being necessary for a traffic study that never existed, but the false alibi only raised additional questions that helped unravel the scandal.
Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief staff in the Governor’s Office, sent an Aug. 13 email saying that it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” to David Wildstein, the GOP political operative who was Port Authority director of interstate capital projects.
Wildstein used his power at the authority to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in September, triggering a week of massive traffic jams.
One exchange between two unidentified conspirators shows the incident was politically motivated:
“I feel badly about the kids,” said a text message sent on the second morning of the closures, after Fort Lee officials informed Port Authority officials that school buses were severely delayed by the traffic jams.
“They are the children of Buono voters,” stated the reply, referring to Christie’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono.
Once regarded as a prospective 2016 candidate for president, the scandal may have derailed Christie’s political future.
Observers said the possibility of jail time looms for Kelly; Wildstein; Bill Baroni, the deputy executive director and Christie’s top paid appointee at the authority; Bill Stepien, Christie’s campaign manager; and Michael Drewniak, Christie’s press secretary.
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