As officials and lawmakers try to get to the bottom of the George Washington Bridge lane closures, attention over the weekend returned to the role played by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officers.
The Bergen Record reported on Sunday that Pat Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority, asked the agency’s inspector general to investigate the actions of Port Authority police officers stationed at the bridge during the closures. The request followed a story in The Record, which took another look at a question that has been hanging over the scandal for months: why did Port Authority police tell commuters that the lane closures were Fort Lee, N.J. Mayor Mark Sokolich’s fault?
Democrats in New Jersey have long speculated that the lane closures, which caused a multi-day traffic jam in Fort Lee, were retaliation against Sokolich’s decision not to endorse Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) re-election last year.
The Record reported that Foye asked the Port Authority’s inspector general to notify the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, which is conducting its own investigation of the lane closures. Foye also “also took the extraordinary step of requesting that the superintendent of the agency’s police department, Michael Fedorko, not be involved in any review,” according to the newspaper.
Meanwhile, The Newark Star-Ledger on Monday reported that Foye had also asked Louis Koumoutsos, the Port Authority’s police chief, to look into the actions taken during the closures by one officer in particular. MSNBC on Sunday reported that the officer, Lt. Thomas “Chip” Michaels, sent text messages during the closures to David Wildstein, the former Port Authority executive who orchestrated them. MSNBC also reported that Michaels grew up in Livingston, N.J. — the same town where both Christie and Wildstein grew up — and has coached Christie’s son in little league hockey.
According to a source who spoke with the Star-Ledger, the probe will focus on the suggestion that Michaels chauffeured Wildstein in Fort Lee on Sept. 9, the first day of the closures.
“The executive director has ordered the chief to review Michaels’ actions,” the source told the newspaper.
Lawmakers investigating the lane closures spoke out over the weekend about the questions surrounding the Port Authority police.
“It’s intriguing that this was the guy who was driving Wildstein around when the lanes were closed,” Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D) told the Star-Ledger, referring to Michaels.