John Hoffman (Office of the Attorney General (N.J.))
The $1.1 million in fees that Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher billed to New Jersey for the firm’s Bridgegate investigation may be just the first installment, acting state Attorney General John Hoffman told legislators at a hearing on Monday.
Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chairman Gordon Johnson, D-Bergen, asked if the New York firm is expected to bill more for its work.
“Yes,” Hoffman replied.
“Is there a ceiling?” Johnson asked.
“No,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman was testifying for the committee’s review of the Department of Law and Public Safety’s proposed $557.1 million budget for fiscal 2015.
Confirming the price tag so far, Hoffman said Gibson Dunn had agreed to cut its hourly rate from $650 to $350 and not to bill for some of its work investigating Gov. Chris Christie’s administration’s possible involvement in last fall’s closure of George Washington Bridge access lanes or in allegedly improper restriction of Hurricane Sandy relief.
In comparison, the two firms hired by the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation, which is conducting its own probe, have billed the committee around $725,000, as of the beginning of the month. Chicago’s Jenner & Block has submitted a tab of $687,000, while local counsel, Hackensack’s Sokol, Behot & Fiorenzo, has billed about $40,000, Hoffman said.
Asked whether Gibson Dunn was continuing to bill, he said, “I assume so,” adding that most of the time charged is for assisting the administration in its response to subpoenas issued by the legislative committee.
Legislators pointed out that Hoffman’s department has authorized Westfield solo Robert Stahl to represent someone involved in the Bridgegate investigation. Hoffman would not divulge the client’s identity, citing the Rules of Professional Conduct. “I can tell you who we’re paying, not who they are representing,” he said.
The Christie administration has recommended a 4.5 percent budget reduction for the department, down from a current budget of $583.4 million.
In February, Treasurer Andrew Simon Sidamon-Eristoff said much of the reduction would come through staff attrition.
Hoffman, under questioning from Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, said the department reduced the spending on outside counsel to $25 million this year, down from $29 million spent last year.
At the same time, he said, the department has taken in at least $165 million in judgments and settlements.
Hoffman declined to discuss his department’s role in reported investigations being conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office into the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s $1 billion bond issue for repairs to the Pulaski Skyway.
Media reports have said the investigation is looking into whether the funds were improperly diverted to conduct road repairs on the New Jersey roadway, which does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority.
“It’s not something I would discuss,” he said. “It wouldn’t be appropriate.”
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