In Plain Sight?

January 11, 2014 12:17 am

A couple nuggets that have been in print for weeks but seem worthy of another look.

First, earlier I mentioned the documents released today which suggest that Port Authority police were telling angry commuters that the traffic jams were due to a decision made by Mayor Sokolich. Here’s the specific language.

But TPM Reader RE points out that this letter was reported in the Star-Ledger way back on November 13th.

Weinberg said she was particularly concerned by a line in the letter in which Sokolich writes, “Many members of the public have indicated to me that the Port Authority Police Officers are advising commuters in response to their complaints that this recent traffic debacle is the result of a decision that I, as Mayor, recently made.”

The Port Authority Police Benevolent Association rejected the notion that any of its members would allow themselves to be used, willingly or otherwise, in such a retaliatory scheme. PBA President Paul Nunziato, whose union was one of the first labor groups to endorse Christie last year, released a wry statement equating the scheme with far-fetched New Jersey folklore involving a famously vanished labor leader and a deceased real estate baroness.

If anyone believed there really was such a scheme, Nunziato said through a spokesman, “then I would suggest that we’re going to find Jimmy Hoffa’s body on the Leona Helmsley property in Fort Lee.”

When I first read this I took it to mean that somehow Sokolich had ordered the closures. But I now see that saying it was “the result of a decision that I, as Mayor, recently made” could be interpreted as meaning that something he did led to the order. And the pretty snarky reply from the head of the Police union does make you wonder. At the end of the day, I just don’t believe there’s any way you loop the actual police officers on the street to the scheme. So I assume it’s just a matter of saying he ordered it or something.

In any case, as I said, this has been out there for a long time.

The second piece is something I think I remember reading about when we first started reporting on this story several weeks ago. But it now it really demands some kind of explanation – not just from Christie but from Gov. Cuomo as well.

This is from a December 12th article in the Wall Street Journal …

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week to complain about a Cuomo appointee’s handling of a growing controversy over traffic pattern changes on the George Washington Bridge, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. was cut from three to one in early September, according to this person. The lane closures occurred without notice to local authorities, officials have said, and snarled traffic for a week in the small borough on the Hudson River bluffs.

December 12th 2013 was a Thursday. So presumably this means the call took place on the 9th, 10th or 11th of December.

We now seem to know pretty clearly that Foye was blowing the whistle on some pretty bad stuff and was the one who had ordered the lane closures to end in the first place. There’s also some evidence in the documents released today that Foye eventually backed off his aggressive pursuit.

For now though look at Christie’s role here. Did this call really take place and did Christie really tell Cuomo to rein in Foye?

If he did, I do not see how that doesn’t gravely undermine the credibility of the story Christie told in his epic press conference on Thursday. When an issue rises up to the governor to governor level, it’s something pretty important. And I don’t think you tell someone to rein in an investigation unless there’s something you don’t want getting a close look.

No, it doesn’t exactly mean Christie was in on it or even knew the full dimensions of the story. But that’s pretty hard to reconcile with his claims on Thursday that he thought nothing was amiss and that none of his people had done anything wrong until he heard about those emails on Wednesday morning. That doesn’t make sense.

I think Christie will have to explain what that phone call was about. And frankly, I think our governor here in New York, Gov. Cuomo, needs to address it publicly too.

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