Chris Christie Faces Mounting Questions In GW Bridge Controversy; Aide Resigns
By D.B. Hirsch
December 13, 2013 6:07 pm - NewsBehavingBadly.com
Many of Chris Christie’s critics have described the New Jersey governor as vindictive. It looks like an alleged attempt by the governor to punish a mayor who would not endorse him is now blowing back on him:
Christie essentially admitted that some of his top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey screwed up, but he insisted there was no political motivation behind what they did, and said he had not known what was happening.
“I’m responsible for everything that happens in this government. … I didn’t know anything about it, but I’m responsible,” said Christie. “For every person who acts in this government, I am ultimately responsible. So if you want to hear that, I’m happy to say that, because it’s true. … That’s different obviously than direct responsibility, but ultimate responsibility, sure.”
The problems began on the morning of Sept. 9, when New Jersey drivers attempting to cross the George Washington Bridge by one of the three access lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., found two of the lanes closed. The result was massive traffic jams, with cars backed up into Fort Lee’s local roads.
The closures were ordered by David Wildstein, a high-ranking Port Authority official and Christie ally, without the knowledge of the Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, who was appointed by the governor of New York. Wildstein’s boss, Christie appointee and former New Jersey state Sen. Bill Baroni, defended the closure, saying it was necessary for a traffic study. Foye said he was never informed of the study, and he ordered the lanes reopened on Sept. 13 when he found out what had happened.
Just weeks before the closures, Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, refused to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. On Sept. 12, Sokolich said he believed Wildstein’s actions were “punitive,” although he later backed off that accusation.
Wildstein resigned last week, although it was reported that he would continue to collect his six-figure paycheck. On Friday, Christie said Wildstein was off the payroll.
Christie also announced that Baroni was resigning, although he denied that it was connected to the bridge controversy. He said the move was planned because Baroni already had served four years with the Port Authority, and the reason it was being announced on Friday was simply because it had become a distraction.
Christie stood by Baroni and Wildstein, characterizing the incident as a “mistake” and asserting that they did not have malicious motives and did not do it for political reasons.
“I can only tell you what Sen. Baroni has said publicly and to everybody in this office, which is they believed the traffic study was necessary and that they ordered it, but the way they did it was mistaken and they didn’t follow protocols,” he said.