BridgeGhazi ‘Ride-By’? New Developments Add Spice, Probe To Scandal
By D.B. Hirsch
February 18, 2014 5:45 am - NewsBehavingBadly.com
Did NJ Governor Christie tell an iddy biddy fib about a Port Authority police officer who happens to be a childhood friend in the direct wake of the first BridgeGhazi revelations? The Port Authority wants answers:
Gov. Chris Christie’s office says he never spoke about September’s George Washington Bridge lane closures with a Port Authority Police lieutenant he knows personally, and whose conduct during the closures is now the subject of an internal review.
Christie’s office also said governor had never spoken about the closures to Lt. Thomas “Chip” Michaels’ brother, Jeffrey Michaels, a Republican lobbyist and former GOP legislative aide.
“The governor has never had any conversations with either Jeff or Chip Michaels on this topic,” Christie spokesman Colin Reed said in a statement this morning.
Christie’s office was reacting to word that Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye had ordered the agency’s police chief to investigate the lieutenant’s actions during the Sept. 9-13 closures.
A source close to the Port Authority Police Department told The Star-Ledger on Sunday that the probe will focus on reports that Michaels, a 15-year veteran of the department and a member of its GWB unit, chauffeured former Port Authority official David Wildstein through Fort Lee’s traffic-congested streets on the first of four days of closures.
Wildstein is the former Christie-backed Port Authority official who ordered the closure of two of three local-access lanes from Fort Lee to the bridge. Wildstein, who resigned in December, was the first of several Port Authority and Christie administration officials to lose their jobs amid investigations by the state legislature, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the bi-state agency itself.
Michaels is from Livingston, where Christie and Wildstein grew up, and the lieutenant had coached the governor’s son in a youth hockey league.
The denials followed a Sunday report on MSNBC that put David Wildstein on a chauffeured tour of the chaos, that introduced a new name to the scandal timeline, one Darcy Licorish:
The police officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who drove a key figure in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal on a tour of the snarled traffic in Fort Lee has connections to Gov. Chris Christie, according to a news report.
MSNBC host Steve Kornacki reported on his show this morning that Thomas “Chip” Michaels met with David Wildstein, the Christie appointee who oversaw the controversial lane closures, on the first day of the traffic jams.
The day before the lane closures went into effect, Michaels emailed his supervisor, Deputy Police Inspector Darcy Licorish, the George Washington Bridge police commander at the time, asking, “Is there going to be a new traffic pattern installed for Monday the 9th?”
To which Licorish replied, “This is to [be] compled (sic) by the maintenance personnel.”
Michael responded, “Understood. Will this affect our normal rush hour operation?”
“Most likely. Concerns were made to no aval (sic) locally,” Licorish said.
Licorish had apparently expressed that concern in an email to Assistant Police Chief Norma Hardy, Chief of Department Louis Koumoutsos and three other assistant chiefs, the previous Friday, in which he said, “This measure could impact the volume of traffic from the local streets. I was informed that Mr. Wildstein is scheduled to visit the facility on the initiating date 9/9/13.”
Meanwhile, the mayor of Fort Lee isn’t cooperating with what passes for an investigation by Governor Christie’s office:
The mayor of Fort Lee said today he will not cooperate with lawyers hired by Gov. Chris Christie’s office to investigate the George Washington Bridge scandal as the legal seesawing over the controversial lane closures continues.
In a letter sent today to Randy Mastro, a former federal prosecutor leading the governor’s legal team, an attorney for Mayor Mark Sokolich declines to have his client sit for a private interview, or to voluntarily hand over documents related to the closures. Mastro had requested both in a letter sent more than a week ago.
“While the mayor has gone out of his way to be fair to all parties in this matter, he wants to make sure that he respects the legal proceedings that are ongoing,” the attorney, Tim Donohue, wrote in the reply. “In light of the parallel investigations being conducted at the same time regarding the same subject matter, I do not believe it would be appropriate for the mayor to be interviewed by you or to produce any documents.”