A Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police lieutenant now under investigation for his actions during the George Washington Bridge lane closures traded text messages on the first day of the closures with the police chief of Fort Lee, N.J. What did they talk about? Traffic.
“Suggest we send west bound traffic from hudson terr [sic] to center ave entrance,” Lt. Thomas “Chip” Michaels wrote on the morning of Sept. 9 in a text to Chief Keith Bendul. “Papd covers lemoine ave. Thoughts?”
“Papd” may refer to the Port Authority police department. Bendul then responded to Michaels: “Can’t center ave gridlocked. Suggestion open up 3 toll lanes.”
The exchange was part of a trove of documents the borough of Fort Lee sent Tuesday to lawyers representing the office of Gov. Chris Christie (R). TPM obtained complete copies of the documents on Wednesday.
Michaels’ name recently surfaced in connection with the lane closures, which caused a multi-day traffic jam in Fort Lee. Some democrats in New Jersey have for months suggested that the closures were retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who declined to endorse Christie’s re-election last year. Over the weekend, reports came out saying that Michaels had texted during the closures with David Wildstein, the former Port Authority executive who ordered them, and had also acted as Wildstein’s chauffeur on the day the lanes were first closed.
In apparent response to those reports, Pat Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority, has the Port Authority’s police chief to look into Michaels’ actions, according to The Newark Star-Ledger.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), one of the leaders of the state legislative committee investigating the lane closures, told The Bergen Record on Wednesday that the text message sent by Michaels to Fort Lee’s police chief raises new questions about his involvement in the scandal.
“These are all questions that need to be answered when these people appear before our committee,” Weinberg told the newspaper, although she also said she was unsure whether the committee would subpoena Michaels.