Responding to reporters questions on the controversial closing of the George Washington Bridge by his now former officials and still close allies, Governor Chris Christie claimed the scandal was “no big deal.”
But that sentiment was not shared by the two former officials – David Wildstein and Bill Baroni – who have now retained outside counsel to protect themselves from potential civil and criminal charges.
Mr. Wildstein recently hired Alan L. Zegas, a criminal lawyer from Chatham, N.J. , to represent him, according to an email sent from Mr. Zegas to the state Legislature Tuesday. Mr. Zegas was co-counsel to former Newark Mayor Sharpe James in 2008 in response to federal corruption charges brought by Mr. Christie when he served as the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, according to Mr. Zegas’s biography…
Mr. Baroni retained Michael Himmel, of Lowenstein Sandler LLP, to represent him. Mr. Himmel works at the firm’s New York City and Roseland, N.J. offices, and specializes in white collar crime, according to his biography. Mr. Himmel is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey.
Pretty heavy legal fire power and the hiring of a criminal attorney by Mr. Wildstein is a rather interesting move when considering the revelations of Wildstein’s other political activities while an official at the Port Authority. Earlier indications were that Wildstein was chiefly responsible for the lane closures that may have been political payback against the Mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie.
The Democratic state lawmakers leading an inquiry into the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge introduced a resolution today calling on Congress to do a top-to-bottom review of the agency.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) said they want federal lawmakers to act on a report issued four months ago by the Government Accountability Office, which criticized the authority for not being transparent or accountable with regard to a recent toll hike.
The GAO report notes a lack of oversight internally and externally. The Port Authority is known within New Jersey political circles as “The Pork Authority” due to jobs and procurement contracts going primarily to the politically connected with the appointments of Mr. Wildstein and Mr. Baroni being cases in point. Neither had particularly strong backgrounds in transportation policy but both were Christie loyalists.
“Bridgegate” still has many unanswered questions, though as the investigation by the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee progresses more may be known about why the busiest bridge in America was needlessly jammed up. Wildstein and Baroni have been given until the 23rd of this month to produce the documents subpenaed by the Transportation Committee.