- (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Hundreds of pages related to the Chris Christie bridge scandal were released Friday, revealing that a chief official believed the lane closings near the George Washington Bridge were "abusive" and against federal law. N.J. residents have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Christie and others.
"I am appalled by the lack of process, failure to inform our customers and Fort Lee and most of all by the dangers created to the public interest, so I am reversing this decision now effective as soon as TBT (the authority's Tunnels, Bridges & Terminals division) and PAPD (Port Authority police) tell me it is safe to do so today," Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye said in an email to officials of the agency on Sept. 13, according to Newsday.
"This hasty and ill-advised decision has resulted in delays to emergency vehicles. I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed," Foye wrote, saying, "the hasty and ill-advised decision" violated federal law and the laws of both States.
The documents – part of N.J. legislative committee's investigation into the controversy – were released Friday, the day after N.J. Gov. Christie said he was "embarrassed and humiliated" by his staff for the controversy involving lane closures on the bridge in New York City, allegedly plotted by one of his top aides as retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie in his 2013 re-election campaign.
In August, Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote in an email, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority, wrote back, "Got it."
The documents show that agency officials overlooked public safety.
A Port Authority staffer wrote an email to Christie's Port Authority appointees on the first day of the closures on Sept. 9 indicating that EMS workers found it difficult to respond to an incident involving a missing child and a cardiac arrest, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Appointee David Wildstein still ordered that the closures continue the following day, revealed emails between Cedrick Fulton, the Port Authority's director of tunnels, bridges and terminals, and Robert Durando, manager of the George Washington Bridge.
The closures, which were allegedly implemented for a "traffic study" and lasted for four days, also "undoubtedly had an adverse effect on economic activity in both states," Foye said.
Reacting to the scandal, six N.J. residents have filed a federal lawsuit against Christie, the state of New Jersey, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and others over the resulting traffic jams, according to The Associated Press.
Lawyer Rosemarie Arnold was quoted as saying that she filed the suit after learning that the closures were "deliberate actions," which caused her clients to arrive late for work and one of them suffered a panic attack.
An official called the plan a "potential disaster," according to Fox News. Another official asked, "What is driving this?"
"It seems like we are punishing all for the sake of a few," Gerald Quelch, the Port authority's supervisor of planning and operations, said in an email. "Very confused."
The traffic chaos led to tensions between New York and New Jersey appointees at the Port Authority, according to the documents.
Port Authority Chairman David Samson, a Christie appointee, indicated in an email that Foye had leaked the memo ordering an end to the closures to a reporter. That's "unfortunate for NY/NJ relations," Samson wrote.
Emails show the Port Authority did not respond to the numerous media inquiries that followed, while Bill Baroni, the Christie-appointed deputy director who has since resigned, told staff not to respond to reporters.
Baroni later authorized a statement claiming the closures were part of a traffic study.
The documents, which show that a preliminary traffic study was actually done, do not point to Christie's involvement in the lane closures.
"I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution," Christie said Thursday at a press conference. "I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here."
Christie apologized to the residents of Fort Lee and their mayor as well as the New Jersey legislature and the people of New Jersey.
Before Thursday's press conference, Christie terminated the employment of Kelly because "she lied to me," he said.
"Ultimately, I am responsible for what happens under my watch, the good and the bad," Christie admitted. "All I can do is apologize for the conduct of people who worked for me – I can't reverse time, but if I could, I would." He described himself as "heartbroken" by the lies of his staff and "humiliated."