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Documents Lay Bare Port Authority Infighting, Stonewalling In 'Bridgegate' Lane Closures

State Assembly committee releases thousands of pages of subpoenaed documents.

Executive Director Patrick Foye of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in Albany N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Executive Director Patrick Foye of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in Albany N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

State officials on Friday released thousands of pages of documents subpoenaed from the Port Authority in the wake of a continuing investigation into whether staffers and appointees of Gov. Chris Christie orchestrated a September traffic nightmare in Fort Lee.

The documents contain mostly communications between top Port Authority officials and operations and media personnel of the bi-state agency, as well as details of the traffic study that prompted the lane closures.

The emails expose infighting between New York and New Jersey agency leadership, and a months-long attempt to stonewall media inquiries into the lane closures.

What the communications do not contain is a "smoking gun" that shows anyone directly ordering the lanes be closed as political dirty play.

Among the emails is a sharply-worded September missive from Patrick Foye, the authority’s executive director, demanding that workers immediately reopen the lanes in Fort Lee.

Writing on Sept. 13, days into the closures, Foye promised to find out who was responsible for the “hasty and ill-advised’’ and “abusive’’ decision to close them to traffic.

“To be clear, I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for,’’ the email reads. “I intend to learn how PA (Port Authority) process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged to say nothing of the credibility of this agency.’’

Foye is an appointee of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. Under Port Authority's rules, the New York governor appointed the executive director, while Christie, a Republican, appointed his deputy, Bill Baroni.

Foye's concerns about the lane closures were captured in a Wall Street Journal report last month that said Christie complained in a private phone call to Cuomo that the Port Authority head was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of the lane-closure maneuvers.

In an exchange that same day, Baroni took issue with Foye was venting his concerns in an email to other Port Authority officials and wrote, "Pat, we need to discuss prior to any communications."

"Bill we are going to fix this fiasco," Foye shot back.

"I am on way to office to discuss. There can be no public discourse," Baroni responded.

One particularly inflammatory email was written on Sept. 17 by former New Jersey Attorney General David Samson, who is chairman of the Port Authority's Board of Commissioners.

In the email, Samson says he is convinced that Foye "leaked to the [Wall Street Journal] his story about Fort Lee issues."

“It confirms evidence of Foye’s being the leak, stirring up trouble,” Samson wrote. “This is yet another example of a story, we’ve seen it before, where he distances himself from an issue in the press and [then] rides in on a white horse to save the day. … In this case, he’s playing in traffic, made a big mistake.”

Samson described Foye’s alleged leak as "very unfortunate for NY/NJ relations.”

Baroni, meanwhile, was among at least three public officials who have resigned or have been fired in the wake of the so-called "Bridgegate" scandal. Christie apologized Thursday for the role one top staffer played in the lane closings, which have been called punitive in nature.

One revelation made clear in the documents is that officials were, in fact, studying the impact of what fewer lanes dedicated to Fort Lee would mean for “mainline” motorists. Several presentations present data from the study, including that “mainline” motorists saved 966 vehicle hours of delay, but that savings was offset by an additional 2,800 hours of delays in Fort Lee.

It claimed the study was conducted in connection with planned Lemoine Avenue construction.

The communications also show that officials were monitoring reaction from motorists, and logged numerous angry calls.

Christie, a potential presidential candidate, took questions for more than an hour Thursday in a press conference that stood in bold relief when played alongside a clip of Christie sarcastically answering a question about the “traffic study” from the same wooden podium several months ago.

After the press conference, the governor travelled to Fort Lee, where he apologized to its mayor, Mark Sokolich, and its citizens. Sokolich accepted Christie's apology, and also said late Thursday afternoon that he believed the governor had no role in the closures.

Emails first obtained by The Record show Christie staffer Bridget Anne Kelly told a Port Authority official close to Christie that it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” about two weeks before the lanes were closed.

“Got it,” replied the Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, who resigned last month as national media and incensed local politicians turned up the heat on the scandal.

Wildstein appeared before a Legislative hearing Thursday afternoon and continually invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, and the committee found him in contempt.
gregory l. mitchell January 12, 2014 at 01:36 PM
Ms.Linda Maloney & Mr.Geo. Murphy you are both on target! I agree 100 per cent with you both.You both are intelligent citizens.As you said Linda anyone should be able to voice their opinions at any time without being being intimidated,insulted or attacked from behind the "shadows"Which so many will do because they lack the confidence or courage to "step out into the open"by not having the backbone to state their full name as George Murphy has the courage to do.Perhaps we may disagree or agree with him,so be it.I must quote a dear friend and co-worker of several years ago,who often disagreed with me on various political positions.I shall never forget him or what he often said,"Mitch,we don't always have to agree,but we don't ever have to be disagreeable!!" HIS NAME WAS GEORGE TOO!!!! Respectfully,Gregory L.Mitchell,W.Caldwell
AB January 12, 2014 at 02:48 PM
At this point the damage is done.. We will be stuck with another liberal in 2016. tax and spend
Art Vatsky January 12, 2014 at 02:57 PM
Is it only me but shouldn't the Port Authority have the decency to give all those who paid tolls on those 4 days in Sept at the Ft. Lee Toll Booths a REFUND/CREDIT EQUAL TO TRIPLE EACH TOLL PAID? Why triple? To compensate those who were inconvenienced for the TIME LOST. They know when and who paid tolls from EZPass. Easy to do and a lesson to all. Don't mess with NJ commuters! C'mon Gov. Christie and Port Authority, isn't that the right thing to do?
Jo January 12, 2014 at 03:14 PM
Hello Neighbors (and yes, I include those of you from out of state who are titillated by our politics). I'm inspired by how many of you are sick of this "divide and conquer" scheme, and recognize how broken our political system is. Please help get money out of politics - it's the disease that is sucking all the life out of America's promise. It is so divisive and destructive. Check out Move to Amend, Les Lessig, Citizens United, and really participate in the fragile democracy that we are so fortunate to claim.
gregory l. mitchell January 12, 2014 at 03:46 PM
Art Vatsky,Excellent idea,your suggestion is right on.It would certainly serve notice that if someone(anyone that is)ever thought of pulling a "stunt"like this again,the Port Authority officers would watch the operation of our bridges,tunnels airports etc. like a hawk.Let them start earning those astronomical salaries they all receive.Great idea once again Art!! Respectfully,Gregory L.Mitchell,West Caldwell
George Murphy January 12, 2014 at 06:05 PM
All I can say is I will cup my hand over my mouth. I am sorry if I offended anyone, and Blazing: All is forgiven! We need to see everything pragmatically; not politically. We do get on our tirades - all of us do - at times, but we need to bring things back into focus, which is the only way to get it accomplished. I am set on doing things correctly. I am not an extreme right winger, nor am I a moderate either because it is too "lukewarm." I am an 85% Christie supporter, but if he is wrong, then he is wrong! Scripture gives us many instructions to use as guidelines in the administering of our social institutions, and one thing that I am sure about is: If we followed these words of true wisdom, there would be a workable solution to every problem. In addition, we might cease taking shots at one another, too! Happy New Year to everyone here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
CJV January 12, 2014 at 07:17 PM
Pretty good shot from 'westfieldmom' to 'Barbara'- is this the new ground rule here?
Uncle Albert January 12, 2014 at 07:25 PM
@CVJ....Only for the white trash on this board.
moose balinski January 12, 2014 at 08:21 PM
I find ALL of these comments on this board absolutely fascinating. After reading them all I said to myself: "Shouldn't the President know how the people feel about him and his policies? So I decided to copy this page (and others) and sent them off to the White House. I think this is a wonderful idea to let the President, and all in the west wing who surround him, to know how the people really feel. (... If anyone else would like to do the same thing (more is always better) just right click and save and then go to "WHITEHOUSE.GOV" and paste to the section called contact us in the upper right corner)
Phil Brooks January 12, 2014 at 09:17 PM
Moose, Nice thought. But the fact is that most of our elected leaders really don't care about us no how much they try to convince us otherwise. If you don't donate to their cause, they're not interested. And the Supreme Court, in Citizens United, essentially said that's OK--you know, money talks and BS walks. // So, send those comments to the White House. They'll fake concern to your face then laugh behind your back. // And, before anyone jumps on me for an anti-Obama statement or that I'm pro-Republican (I'm a centrist and hold both sides in contempt), I'm not commenting on the man in the WH, just the pervasive mentality of those who are elected to supposedly serve us. It's more like self-service now.
uncle albert January 12, 2014 at 09:36 PM
Glass takes one million years to decompose, which means it never wears out and can be recycled an infinite amount of times! Gold is the only metal that doesn't rust, even if it's buried in the ground for thousands of years. Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one end. If you stop getting thirsty, you need to drink more water. When a human body is dehydrated, its thirst mechanism shuts off. Zero is the only number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals. Kites were used in the American Civil War to deliver letters and newspapers. The song, Auld Lang Syne, is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year. Drinking water after eating reduces the acid in your mouth by 61 percent. Peanut oil is used for cooking in submarines because it doesn't smoke unless it's heated above 450F. The roar that we hear when we place a seashell next to our ear is not the ocean, but rather the sound of blood surging through the veins in the ear. Nine out of every 10 living things live in the ocean. The banana cannot reproduce itself. It can be propagated only by the hand of man. Airports at higher altitudes require a longer airstrip due to lower air density. The University of Alaska spans four time zones. The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot heal itself. In ancient Greece, tossing an apple to a girl was a traditional proposal of marriage. Catching it meant she accepted. Warner Communications paid $28 million for the copyright to the song Happy Birthday. Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair. A comet's tail always points away from the sun. The Swine Flu vaccine in 1976 caused more death and illness than the disease it was intended to prevent. Caffeine increases the power of aspirin and other painkillers, that is why it is found in some medicines. The military salute is a motion that evolved from medieval times, when knights in armor raised their visors to reveal their identity. If you get into the bottom of a well or a tall chimney and look up, you can see stars, even in the middle of the day. When a person dies, hearing is the last sense to go. The first sense lost is sight. In ancient times strangers shook hands to show that they were unarmed. Strawberries are the only fruits whose seeds grow on the outside. Avocados have the highest calories of any fruit at 167 calories per hundred grams. The moon moves about two inches away from the Earth each year. The Earth gets 100 tons heavier every day due to falling space dust. Due to earth's gravity it is impossible for mountains to be higher than 15,000 meters. Mickey Mouse is known as "Topolino" in Italy . Soldiers do not march in step when going across bridges because they could set up a vibration which could be sufficient to knock the bridge down. Everything weighs one percent less at the equator. For every extra kilogram carried on a space flight, 530 kg of excess fuel are needed at lift-off. The letter J does not appear anywhere on the periodic table of the elements.
Phil Brooks January 12, 2014 at 10:39 PM
Hey Moose, Are you also Uncle Albert? On the Ocean City Patch (today, 7:52 PM) is a verbatim post (under the name Uncle Albert) of your copying these posts and sending them to the White House so the people there can read the voice of the people. // Come on, chief, one screen name per customer.
Phil Brooks January 12, 2014 at 10:41 PM
Uncle Albert/Moose, What's with that seemingly interminable post filled with facts that most of us might find amusing but little else?
moose balinski January 12, 2014 at 10:54 PM
I thought he had a excellent idea and decided to re-post it.
CJV January 13, 2014 at 01:42 AM
Does anyone here who has even half a lobe left think Christie could beat Hillary here in New Jersey in 2016?
Captain Joel S. Fogel January 13, 2014 at 01:50 AM
He is damaged goods and will be passed over for the election.
CJV January 13, 2014 at 01:56 AM
If Christie can't carry New Jersey over Hillary, then he is of no use whatsoever to the Republicans. Sorry about that, freepers.
iMan9796 January 13, 2014 at 04:16 PM
A traffic study on 9/11...really, what’s next, the Port Authority giving all TSA airport screeners the day off on 9/11/14 to see if that speeds up the screening process study?
M.T. January 13, 2014 at 04:30 PM
Oh give me a break. 2016 is a full 2 years away. Unless there are smoking gun documents that show Christie ordered the lane closures or was willfully blind to it he still has a chance. There's no way you can say he's finished for 2016 at this point. 2 years is an eternity in politics. I'm not saying this isn't a national scandal, believe me, I live in Fort Lee and saw the media destroying the front lawn of Borough Hall. Voters still love Christie and will give him the benefit of the doubt unless a smoking gun emerges, sorry Rachel Maddow. As an aside, I love all these national media people who don't live in Fort Lee or NJ making broad sweeping generalizations about all this trying to tie this to Helen Hoens not being re-nominated for the State Supreme Court or Redevelopment Area 5 in town. It's mildly entertaining. You can't say Christie is done because he might not carry NJ. I doubt anyone puts much weight behind a potential nominee's ability to put their "home" state in play anymore. Obama picked Biden to answer questions about his inexperience not to win Delaware, Romney picked Ryan to answer questions about his commitment to conservative principles not to win Wisconsin, same with McCain picking Palin, etc. Kerry picked John Edwards in 2004 in a crass display of politics hoping to put the Carolinas in play and it failed. Gore didn't win his homestate of Tennessee in 2000. Just because Christie doesn't put NJ in play (which I don't agree with) doesn't mean he's a goner. A recent CNN poll has him beating Clinton by 2 points nationally. How do you square that poll with what you're saying about him being a goner? Granted he has to get through a primary, but just because a candidate might not win their homestate doesn't mean they aren't viable candidates. There are 600k more dems than reps in NJ so Christie's potential inability to win NJ isn't a valid baseline. What matters is if he puts Florida, Pennsylvania, or other "swing" states in play.
uncle albert January 13, 2014 at 07:55 PM
You heard of the "soup Nazi", well Christie will now be known as The Bridge Nazi........ "No bridge for you!"
Mike King January 13, 2014 at 08:28 PM
Christie isn't a factor outside NJ. If he can't win here the RNC will look elsewhere. I think he needed to rake in the $$$$ like Obama did in 08 to run the show. And no one will pick him for a running mate because he'd steal the spotlight.
uncle albert January 13, 2014 at 08:56 PM
@Mike King.... That's exactly what Rand Paul said.
Mike King January 13, 2014 at 09:14 PM
great minds I guess... Friends and family outside NJ keep telling me we're the only ones taking him seriously. Now that he's made an enemy of Kean who knows? I'm not a fan btw - he blew it w/me when he gifted NJEA another year to hold untenured teachers hostage/collect dues for no service.
uncle albert January 13, 2014 at 09:51 PM
Yes, It seem that he talks from both sides of his mouth.
George Murphy January 14, 2014 at 12:24 AM
MT - You have good reason to make the statements you did because you have seen it, round-the-clock. I happen to like Ft. Lee when I visit there. I have, on occasion, substituted as the organist at Holy Trinity Church. My greatest fear - even early on a Sunday morning - is what I might find when I get to the Lemoine Ave. Exit. I guess my only suggestion is that these orders should come directly from the Port Authority after, and only after, consultation with both gubernatorial administrations. In other words, no orders should ever have come from the two people who gave them. (An improper chain of command)
CJV January 14, 2014 at 02:28 AM
M.T.- Hillary will be very strong in Florida, and Christie's problems in NJ will carry into the Philadelphia area as well. He's not capable of getting to 270 electoral votes without NJ. What you mean to say is you think he can still win NJ, and we just disagree on that. But you can't take out a map and get him to 270 without NJ. The nomination will instead go to someone like Walker from the Midwest, who can flip Wisconsin and Michigan and get the GOP back in the game.
suz January 14, 2014 at 08:43 AM
CJV..oh, I sure hope that anyone who runs against Hillary (at this point) will win. She is just another puppet for Obama at this stage, and that says a lot. All we need is another liberal, socialist in the White House for ANOTHER 4 years! Yikes!
Spooner January 14, 2014 at 11:27 AM
@Linda- a little belated, but totally agree about characterizations(old white guy) Stay on topic!
anonymous January 14, 2014 at 12:23 PM
Moose, try not to listen to the nay-Sayers. Follow your gut feeling on what you should do on any issue. anonymous
uncle albert January 14, 2014 at 01:49 PM
August, 2014 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This happens only once every 823 years. This is the only time you will see this phenomenon in your life.

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