Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Pa Official Called to Testify

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Pa Official Called to Testify

Article excerpt

The former Port Authority official who orchestrated controversial lane diversions at the George Washington Bridge was ordered on Tuesday to testify under oath in front of state lawmakers who said their widening investigation was leading outside the agency.

The subpoena came on the same day that Fort Lee released phone records that show borough officials made nearly a dozen phone calls to Port Authority representatives during the week of the surprise lane closings in September. Fort Lee's mayor, Mark Sokolich, has said his pleas for answers from Port Authority officials that week were ignored, leading him to believe the move was "punitive."

David Wildstein, a onetime political consultant and childhood friend of Governor Christie's, is the fifth Port Authority official to receive a subpoena forcing an appearance before a panel investigating whether the lane diversions were political payback against the Fort Lee mayor, a Democrat who did not endorse Christie in the lead-up to the governor's landslide reelection victory.

Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, a Democrat from Sayreville who is leading the inquiry, said on Tuesday that the decision to order Wildstein to testify was based on a review of documents Wildstein supplied in response to a previous subpoena that "go to the heart of why this lane diversion took place and how it was implemented and who else knew about it."

He said he hoped that Wildstein could provide context for those documents.

"What it comes down to is an abuse," Wisniewski said, "perpetrated by two of the highest-ranking appointees at the Port Authority."

He declined to describe early findings but said the investigation into the closings is heading outside the agency.

"I can't tell you where this investigation will ultimately lead, but I can tell you it is leading outside the Port Authority," he said.

Both Wildstein and Bill Baroni, previously Christie's top executives at the agency, resigned amid the controversy, which has become a headache for the governor, an early favorite to be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. Christie steers the Port Authority jointly with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Wildstein did not respond to a request for comment.

His attorney, Alan Zegas, said on Tuesday that he would discuss the subpoena with his client after New Year's Day.

"Decisions will be made with respect to the subpoena at that time," he said, when asked whether Wildstein plans to testify. The subpoena says failure to comply will result in "penalties as are provided by law."

According to state law, if Wildstein refuses to comply with the subpoena, the Assembly committee could refer the issue to the full Legislature. If both the Assembly and the Senate vote him in contempt, he could be punished by up to six months in jail. …

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