George Washington Bridge ()
Four witnesses were subpoenaed Tuesday by the New Jersey Legislature committee investigating last fall’s closure of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee.
Ordered to appear for hearings were Gov. Chris Christie’s spokesperson Michael Drewniak; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director Patrick Foye; Port Authority commissioner William Schuber; and Christina Renna, a former liaison with the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, which is an arm of the governor’s office.
The four were subpoenaed to testify, not to produce documents. Schuber and Renna are to appear on May 6, Foye and Drewniak on May 13.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, cochairs of the N.J. Legislative Select Committee on Investigation, did not specify the areas of inquiry to be covered, saying only that “the committee is moving to a key stage of its investigation into how this abuse of government power and threat to public safety occurred.”
Drewniak was involved in several e-mail exchanges after the closures and met with David Wildstein, the former director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority, who allegedly orchestrated the closures with Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, the day before Wildstein resigned.
Christie fired Kelly after learning of her role and removed Bill Stepien, his campaign manager, from his role as leader of the state Republicans after learning that he may have had some knowledge of the affair.
Foye, appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, ordered the lanes re-opened on Sept. 13 and later sent an e-mail to senior Port Authority staff that the closures were “ill-advised” and possibly illegal. He later said he believed Port Authority chairman David Samson, a Christie appointee, did not have the “moral authority” to lead the agency.
It is not clear why Schuber, a former state assemblyman and Bergen County executive, was called to testify, although he was one of several commissioners who criticized Foye for his statement about Samson, who has since retired.
Renna, who resigned from the administration after the closures, may be questioned about statements she made when she was interviewed by lawyers at New York’s Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the New York firm Christie retained to conduct an internal investigation of his administration’s possible role in the lane closures.
The firm expanded its inquiry after Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged that the OLIA used federal Hurricane Sandy aid to help mayors in towns who supported Christie’s legislative agenda or who supported him in his re-election bid last year. Renna told Gibson Dunn lawyers that the OLIA had been told to ignore requests for assistance from some mayors.
The lane closures and subsequent related events also are being investigated by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and a federal grand jury.