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Bridgegate panel wants to call 13 on traffic jams

TRENTON (AP) — The New Jersey legislative panel looking into lane closures near the George Washington Bridge wants to call 13 more witnesses, including Gov. Chris Christie’s political strategist and the mayor of the town that was paralyzed by gridlock for four mornings.

One of the committee’s co-chairs, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, said she expects it to be the last major round of requests for testimony and hopes that the committee wraps up its work sometime in the fall.

Weinberg said the joint legislative committee is interested in the role of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s police department in the September 2013 lane closures, and exploring the proper relationship between the authority and the governors of the two states. Her co-chairman, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, said there are two even more fundamental questions: Who was involved in closing down the lanes and why did they do it?

Wisniewski said the list of potential witnesses, which was obtained by The Associated Press and first reported by The Record newspaper, was meant to be an internal document. He said additional people may receive subpoenas, and some on the list may not.

Weinberg said the committee wants to run the list by the U.S. attorney’s office to see if it should hold off on any interviews so as not to get in the way of a law enforcement investigation.

The list includes Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, the town where lane closures caused massive traffic backups. Emails made public so far make it appear the traffic jams were caused to punish him, but it is not clear why.

Others are Christie’s political strategist, Michael DuHaime; his former chief counsel, Charles McKenna; current chief counsel Christopher Porrino and other members of his staff, Regina Egea, Evan Ridley and Paul Matey.

Former Christie aides Deb Gramiccioni and Nicole Criffo, who both now work for the Port Authority, are also on the list.

So is Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye. Other current or former Port Authority officials included are Phillip Kwon, Paul Nunziato and Phillippe Danielides.

Spokesmen from the Port Authority and governor’s office would not comment.

Gramiccioni and Marc Mukasey, a lawyer for DuHaime, both said they had not received notice from the committee and would not comment.

Republican Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick blasted the committee Friday, saying it is running “the investigation that will never end.”

“When you allow a former chairman of the Democratic party to investigate one of the most prominent Republicans nationally, this is what you get,” he said, referring to Wisniewski, who has served as chairman of the state Democratic organization. “This is really unfortunate because politicians shouldn’t investigate politicians.”

But both Weinberg and Wisniewski say their probe has brought to light important information — including an email from a Christie staffer to a Port Authority official saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — and has led to more open debates among Port Authority board members and efforts to overhaul the agency.

“If it were not for the investigation,” Wisniewski said, “a great number of these egregious behaviors would be unknown and unreported.”

 

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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