Bridgegate Not Mentioned in Appointee’s Calendars
There is no mention of a plan to block traffic near the George Washington Bridge in the travel records of Gov. Chris Christie’s former top appointee at the transit agency that operates the bridge.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released more than 1,000 pages of calendar entries and travel records from Bill Baroni on Friday to comply with a freedom of information request.
None of the documents mentions the traffic jam scandal that forced Baroni to resign his position as deputy executive director of the Port Authority in December as the motive for the political retribution plot became clearer.
Baroni’s electronic calendars contain no mention of the traffic blocking operation near the world’s busiest bridge the week of 9/11, apparently to retaliate against a local mayor whose town was brought to a standstill. And they show no contact with ex-Christie aide Bridget Kelly, who was fired after her “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email was released.
Baroni worked closely with David Wildstein, the Port Authority operative who has been blamed for hatching the lane closing plot, but his calendars show no regular contact between the two.
The calendars show meetings with Christie’s political consultant and members of the governor’s inner circle through last fall, and with a Port Authority chaplain who became the butt of jokes between two Christie loyalists at the center of the bridge scandal. The calendars do not specify what the meetings were about. There are many places in the documents that are blacked out.
Gwen Rocco, a spokeswoman for American Bridget 21st Century, the liberal Super PAC that requested the documents in January, said that the volume of emails and meetings by Christie’s government and campaign staffs undermines the Republican governor’s claim not to have known about the lane closures.
Baroni’s lawyer declined to comment.
Baroni appeared before a New Jersey legislative panel investigating the lane closings in November, claiming that the four-day lane diversion was part of a blind study to improve the flow of commuter traffic. The so-called traffic study is now widely believed to have been a cover story for the political nature of the operation.
The calendars show Baroni meeting with Christie political consultant Mike DuHaime on Oct. 1 and again in early December, and with the governor’s chief of staff and chief counsel the day before resigning. He had dinner on Oct. 3 with another member of Christie’s team, Deb Gramiccioni, who succeeded Baroni at the Port Authority. Newspaper stories had begun to appear by that time about the lane closings and their possible political nature.
The final entry is listed as “Comella party,” a reference to Christie communications director Maria Comella. The party was scheduled for Dec. 14, one day after Christie held a press conference announcing Baroni’s resignation and assuring the press that no members of his staff or campaign had been involved in the lane closings.
Former political strategist Bill Stepien says he knew of the plan to close lanes in advance, and told Christie as much on Dec. 13. He says it was one of many “crazy ideas’ brought to him by Wildstein, who said he wanted to study traffic patterns.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)