Fort Lee Mayor: I Accepted Christie's Apology, 'Glad He Came'

Image: Fort Lee Mayor: I Accepted Christie's Apology, 'Glad He Came'

Thursday, 09 Jan 2014 06:58 PM

By Greg Richter

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In what he described as a very productive and cordial meeting, Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich said he accepted the apology of Gov. Chris Christie for lane closures that  stymied traffic in Fort Lee in September.

"I accepted his apology," Sokolich told reporters outside City Hall after Christie went to Fort Lee to apologize in person after already apologizing in a two-hour press conference earlier in the day.

Sokolich earlier had said Christie didn't need to come to Fort Lee, but told reporters gathered outside City Hall that he let the governor know that he didn't intend any disrespect. He simply thought it would have been better to wait until the investigation was complete.

That said, Sokolich added, "I'm glad he came."

Christie has been under fire since emails became public on Wednesday that aides had ordered a "traffic study" to shut down commuter lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge heading into New York City. He fired one aide after the emails revealed she was involved in closing the lanes as political payback for Sokolich not endorsing Christie's re-election effort.

"I take him for his word, which was he had nothing to do with it," Sokolich told reporters. "We in Fort Lee are not rooting for facts to come about and surface that would suggest in some shape or form that he was involved."

Though Sokolich said he would still not characterize himself and Christie as "close friends," they did share a light moment at the end of the meeting.

"At the end I did say, 'Governor, am I on your radar?' I think his answer was something to the effect that 'we now have our own screen,' which I thought was pretty funny," Sokolich said.

A reporter asked if Sokolich saw any irony in the fact that traffic was shut down in one lane for the governor's caravan.

"I leave that to you guys to make that decision," Sokolich said. "That was a safety move, planned, and actually we had conducted a couple of studies before he arrived," he joked.

"By no uncertain terms is it closure. By no uncertain terms is it the end of this issue, though it is the beginning of what we are hopeful is a trusting relationship without fear of retribution in the future," Sokolich said later in an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

Christie assured him there would be no retribution for the city, Sokolich said.

Asked by Blitzer if he knew of any previous incidents when Fort Lee was the victim of political punishment from the governor's office, Sokolich said he did not.

"In the world of politics, if you're good, I guess, at doling out vendettas, sometimes you don't even realize you're experiencing them, if you know what I mean," Sokolich said. "But I have no knowledge of any other retribution being aimed at the borough of Fort Lee."

Noting that the FBI has said it is joining the investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing, Sokolich told CNN he is certain laws were broken.

"You don't hear those initials — that being the FBI — unless it reaches a level of criminality," he said.

Asked whether Christie is a bully as critics have charged, Sokolich said the governor is definitely "tough" and "no-nonsense." But if it turns out Christie had involvement in the bridge scandal, "bully would definitely fit."

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