New Jersey taxpayers are on track to pay a $3 million bill from lawyers hired by Gov. Chris Christie's office after the George Washington Bridge scandal became known, and much of that tab was not directly related to the lane closures.
The law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher was hired to investigate the bridge incident, reports The Asbury Park Press.
However, the firm's work also expanded to review allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer,
who accused the Christie administration of withholding federal aid for Superstorm Sandy recovery to force the approval of a development project.
The firm billed $1.1 million for three weeks of work in January alone, not counting work in February and March and even more this spring, bringing the tally to at least $3 million. In addition, Gibson Dunn lowered its fee from $650 to $350 an hour and agreed to not bill the New Jersey taxpayers for travel and other expenses.
Outside counsel has also been hired by the state Legislature for other state employees' attorneys, and they have billed about $750,000 through March.
Christie said during a news conference in April that the costs go beyond the administration performing an internal investigation, but also because his office has to contend with other requests coming in.
"There's a lot that is going to be involved in the cost of this, just not the internal investigation," said Christie, "but having lawyers do that and lawyers who have to represent people who are called as witnesses."
It will be difficult to determine the final tab, Christie said.
"Policymakers have to make the judgment, ultimately, about whether this is money well spent or not, and I assume that the people who are in charge of making these decisions will make those decisions and be held accountable for them," he said.
Christie explained that his job is to cooperate with investigations, "and to do that, you have to employ lawyers to do it. It's the only way to do it responsibly, effectively, and thoroughly."
But Christie pointed out that he's not the one driving the investigation, and those who are will "have to make the judgment as to if and when there comes a time where there's diminishing returns on that investment."
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