The New Jersey Legislature has released more than 2,000 pages of documents related to the controversial closure of the George Washington Bridge .
They were made public two days after damning e-mails surfaced suggesting top aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were involved– allegedly to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor.
Below are some of the striking details from the document dump. They were entered into public record during a New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee hearing, in which David Wildstein, a Christie-appointed executive at the Port Authority (which controls the bridge) repeatedly pled the Fifth Amendment. He has since resigned.
A ‘hasty and ill-advised decision’: Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo–who testified he had no idea about any traffic study—expressed concern that drivers weren’t warned about the decision to close the lanes. He sent a scathing email to Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, characterizing the closures as a “hasty and ill-advised decision” that may have violated both state and federal law. Some in the Christie administration claimed the lane closing were for a traffic study. When Foye said “Bill, we are going to fix this fiasco,” Baroni said “There can be no public discourse.” Baroni has since resigned.
It was an ‘abusive’ decision: Foye also expressed concern for the public’s safety. “I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital – or hospice-bound patient delayed.” He also said “I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violated everything this agency stands for.”
A Christie-appointee witnessed the closure: Wildstein emailed the bridge’s general manager the day before the lanes were closed, documents show: “Will be at bridge early Monday am to view new lane test.” According to other emails, he arrived by 7 a.m. on Sept. 9, the first of four days of Fort Lee’s traffic mess. An email from the weekend before the traffic jam quotes the bridge manager saying that he was “instructed by Wildstein to change the traffic pattern.”
Complaints started rolling in on Day 1: On Sept. 9, Robert Durando, the general manager of the bridge, forwarded an email to what appeared to be Port Authority employees to give them a “flavor of the complaints.” One patron said the Port Authority “doesn’t care about their customers and they are playing God with people’s jobs,” noting her husband was 40 minutes late to a job that he just got after being unemployed for a year.
Emergency vehicles were affected: Port Authority employee Tina Lado e-mailed Baroni and Wildstein on Sept. 9, telling them that emergency response vehicles were being slowed down. Lado relayed that Peggy Thomas, Fort Lee’s borough administrator, expressed concern over “two incidents that Ft Lee PD and EMS had difficulty responding to: a missing child (later found) and a cardiac arrest.”
The scandal effects continue to ripple. The chairman of the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee told msnbc on Friday night that he is delaying the confirmation hearing for Kevin O’Dowd, Governor Christie’s chief of staff, to become New Jersey attorney general–the state’s top law enforcement official.
Christie nominated O’Dowd on December 2nd and the nomination hearing was set to begin Tuesday.
Appearing on PoliticsNation with Rev. Al Sharpton, State Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari said, “Obviously, there’s going to be a heck of a lot more questions now than there would have been just a couple of weeks ago when we were anticipating the hearing.”
Sen. Scutari said no new date has been set for the confirmation hearing.
Meanwhile, six New Jersey residents are already suing over ‘Bridgegate.’ The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Newark, seeks damages on behalf of the plaintiffs, who claim they lost wages and were late to work because of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, one of the busiest bridges in the world. The plaintiffs called the bridge plot “willful, wanton, arbitrary, and egregious official misconduct,” the Bergen Record reported.“ Defendants in the case include Christie; his former deputy chief of staff Bridget Ann Kelly, who has been implicated in the traffic scheme; and two former Port Authority officials, according to the report.
Jane Timm and NBC News contributed to this report.