John Wisniewski ()
The New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation made clear Tuesday that it will push on with its task even as a federal grand jury looks into the Bridgegate scandal.
“We still have work to do,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, a co-chair, at the committee’s first meeting since February. “We would be doing a disservice if we did not pursue this investigation to its conclusion.”
Partisan bickering erupted when Assemblyman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, suggested that the committee switch its focus to reforming the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the George Washington Bridge.
She said she was “very troubled” that the committee has held only two meetings and that it has already paid $200,000 to Chicago’s Jenner & Block, the firm where the committee’s special counsel, Reid Schar, works.
Handlin said she had a “whole pile” of reform bills that the committee could consider. “Don’t you think the bleeding at the Port Authority has gone on long enough?” she said.
“We’re not done with our work,” Wisniewski replied, suggesting Handlin was “showboating.”
That remark rankled Sen. Kevin O’Toole, R-Passaic, and he and Wisniewski began arguing over the committee’s internal workings before the committee voted to go into executive session.
The other co-chair, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said the committee would consider Port Authority reform legislation at a later date, noting that Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed reform measures two years ago.
Wisniewski said the federal investigation only concerns possible violations of criminal laws and is not looking into possible reform measures.
Although the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not confirm details of its investigations, there have been news reports that Michael Drewniak, one of Christie’s spokespersons, has testified before the grand jury and that David Wildstein, the former Port Authority director of interstate projects believed to be largely responsible for last September’s bridge lane closures in Fort Lee, has been in talks with prosecutors.
Wisniewski confirmed Tuesday the committee’s interest in the materials developed by Randy Mastro and his colleagues at New York’s Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in their international investigation of the governor’s office that cleared Christie of any prior knowledge of the closures or complicity in a cover-up.
Wisniewski said Schar has asked the administration and the law firm to turn over transcripts, tapes, interview notes and other documents relating to interviews of 70 people that formed the basis for the report.
Schar gave as a deadline the end of this week. Subpoenas may go out early next week if the governor’s office and Gibson Dunn are not cooperative, Wisniewski said.
Mastro responded in a statement. “We reached out to counsel for the committee over a week ago to discuss sharing voluntarily the interview memoranda regarding the lane realignment upon which our report was partially based,” he said. “In light of the committee’s statements this afternoon, we will look forward to continuing that cooperative dialogue.”
The committee so far has received “tens of thousands” of documents from those already served with subpoenas. The committee will begin calling witnesses to testify in the near future, Wisniewski said.
Most people and organizations that have received subpoenas have been cooperative, and some of those served have been producing documents on a rolling basis.
“We will allow this to play out, but we do have a limit,” he said. “This has been rolling for two months and it’s time to put the rolling to a stop.”
The Christie administration did not respond to a request for comment.
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