N.J. Democrat Accuses Port Authority Of Trying To Dodge Bridge Scandal Investigation

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A New Jersey Democrat believes the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is trying to “ignore” her attempts to investigate the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that caused days of gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J. in September. 

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who represents a district that includes Fort Lee, told TPM she sent the Port Authority, which oversees the bridge, a Freedom of Information Act request for all records relating to the closures on Nov. 13. Weinberg said she has not received a response and she believes the delays are part of an attempt by Port Authority officials to avoid the growing scandal surrounding the closures, which Weinberg and other Democrats have suggested may have been retaliation for a local mayor’s failure to endorse Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) re-election bid. 

“I think that they have a mindset that if they just ignore everybody and everything it somehow goes away,” Weinberg said. 

A Port Authority spokesperson told the Bergen Record newspaper the agency sent Weinberg a status report informing her it would need until at least Jan. 13 to comply with her request. Weinberg said she has not received this notification. Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman told TPM the status report was mailed Dec. 20 and may not have reached Weinberg yet. 

“Even if they sent the letter, supposedly all it said is, ‘We can’t comply and we’ll let you know in January,'” said Weinberg. “So, it was completely non-responsive.” 

Furthermore, Weinberg does not believe that it should take over two months for Port Authority to provide her with the records she requested. 

“That’s their modus operandi: just don’t reply and maybe it will all go away,” Weinberg said. 

The Legislature is currently investigating the lane closures through the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, which currently has subpoena power over the Port Authority through Jan. 14. Weinberg suggested it isn’t entirely coincidental that Port Authority won’t provide the records she asked for until one day before the Legislature’s subpoena power expires. 

“The innocent part of me says it’s a coincidence, the political antenna part of me says it’s not,” said Weinberg.

The Port Authority did not respond to TPM’s inquiry Friday about why it needed two months to comply with Weinberg’s request.

For her part, Weinberg said Port Authority’s silence could fuel the impression Christie’s appointees at the agency ordered the closures to exact revenge on Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not backing the governor. 

“If they conintue to be non-responsive, then they’ll continue to make everybody believe that all the speculation is true,” Weinberg said. “It makes the conspiracy theory reality.”  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com
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