A New Jersey legislative committee on Thursday found a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive in contempt for refusing to answer questions connected to the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal.
Before the committee voted, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D), the chairman of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, said that David Wildstein’s decision to refuse to answer questions from the committee “places him in contempt of this committee, which is a misdemeanor.”
Wildstein asserted his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent at the start of the hearing, and his lawyer later argued that the committee would not be acting appropriately if it did find Wildstein in contempt.
“I would submit that the rules that the chair just cited are at variance with the United States and New Jersey constitutions,” Wildstein’s lawyer, Alan Zegas, said.
The George Washington Brigde lane closures, which began Sept. 9, lead to a massive, multi-day traffic jam in the town of Fort Lee, N.J.
Wildstein, who announced his resignation from the Port Authority in December, had previously maintained that the lanes were closed as a result of a traffic study. But Democrats in the state have suggested the closures were retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, who declined to endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year.
Documents made public on Wednesday revealed direct ties between the Christie administration and the discussion about the lane closures, and included numerous communications made by Wildstein. The documents included emails exchanged between Wildstein and former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Bridget Anne Kelly.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote to Wildstein on Aug. 13.
“Got it,” Wildstein replied.
This post has been updated.