Emails: Police partly in dark on George Washington Bridge lane closings

TRENTON - January 10, 2014

Read the emails in their entirety

The email from Capt. Darcy Licorish of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was among hundreds of pages of documents subpoenaed by a New Jersey legislative committee investigating whether the September traffic jams at the bridge were created as political retribution against a Democratic mayor.

They come two days after a first batch of documents suggested that was the case, and one day after Christie fired a top aide and apologized for what's become the biggest scandal in his four years as governor.

"The undersigned inquired if this is a permanent plan or temporary," Licorish wrote in an email recounting her meeting with the bridge manager about the planned closings. "The manager could not supply an answer to that or other questions. Inquiry was also made as to the notifications of the township. No answers could be supplied."

Some of the emails among top Port Authority officials seem to show that the closings triggered disputes between those appointed by Christie and those named to the authority by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Port Authority operates many of the New York metropolitan area's bridges and tunnels.

Port Authority Chairman David Sampson, a Christie appointee, wrote to others that he was upset because he believed that executive director Patrick Foye, a Cuomo appointee, had leaked a story about the closings - something that others denied in emails.

On Thursday, Christie fired one aide, cut ties with one of his top campaign advisers and apologized during a nearly two-hour news conference for his staff's "stupid" behavior.

But Christie shed little light on how the lanes came to be closed. "I don't know whether this was a traffic study that then morphed into a political vendetta or a political vendetta that morphed into a traffic study," he said.

The newly released documents show that there was, in fact, a traffic study, or at least a preliminary one. It was six pages and dated Sept. 12, the day before the Port Authority's executive director ordered lanes reopened.

The six-page document includes study findings that Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, who has since resigned, gave to lawmakers in a hearing last year: The main bridge traffic moved a bit faster, but local traffic had major delays. The conclusion was listed as "TBD," or "to be determined."

Christie said Thursday that he had asked his top staff members in December to tell him if any of them were involved in the lane closings. None came forward at the time, he said.

The case became a full-blown scandal on Wednesday, when a set of emails and text messages obtained by The Associated Press and other news organizations suggested the lanes were closed by a top Christie aide for political reasons - apparently to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

In an August email, Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority, replied, "Got it."

Kelly was fired Thursday. Wildstein resigned in December. He appeared under subpoena before a legislative committee Thursday but refused to answer any questions on the advice of his lawyer. The committee found him in contempt.

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