Christie: Bridge Traffic Controversy 'Sensationalized'

Image: Christie: Bridge Traffic Controversy 'Sensationalized'

Saturday, 14 Dec 2013 04:22 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is frustrated with the growing scandal over the George Washington Bridge lane closures that gridlocked Fort Lee's morning traffic for four days in September.

However, legislative hearings have led to the resignations of two of his close associates, reported The New York Times.

In addition, allegations that the closures were ordered in retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who refused to back Christie's reelection efforts, are growing.
On Friday, Bill Baroni, the governor's chief appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, stepped down.

Earlier in the week, Port Authority executive David Wildstein, a longtime friend of Christie's who ordered the lane closures, quit his job.

Christie, announcing Baroni's resignation on Friday, complained the burgeoning scandal has been "sensationalized."

Further, he said "a mistake got made" and Baroni's resignation was 'a change I was going to make anyway."

Christie on Friday, addressing many of the accusations that were brought up during a six-hour hearing this week, said he has not heard of a "culture of fear" Port Authority workers described, and denied ever meeting Sokolich.

But the scandal is growing just as Christie is becoming regarded as a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination and on Friday, he attempted to put distance between himself and the Fort Lee closures.

Christie, trying to turn the situation around to him advantage, said he wishes more people in public life would admit their mistakes.

But nationally, Democrats are jumping on the controversy, and New Jersey Democratic lawmakers vowed to continue the investigations. Assemblyman John Wisniewski said he expects more hearings will involve seven subpoenas he sent out on Thursday, and the Port Authority's inspector general is also investigating the closures.

"We still don’t have a full accounting of what happened, why it was allowed to occur, everyone who was involved and what their motivations were," State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the Democratic majority leader, said, calling the resignations "an admission of guilt."

Christie, though, said he's "heard more about this than I ever wanted to,” complaining that he has better ways to spend his Friday mornings than talking about traffic studies and road closures.

Christie named Deborah Gramicconi to Baroni's post, and then suggested that “everybody needs some time to calm down.”

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