Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Public's Legal Tab in Scandal Grows

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Public's Legal Tab in Scandal Grows

Article excerpt

The public will pay five law firms to represent some current and former state employees in connection with the bridge scandal, according to the Attorney General's Office.

At $340 an hour, the firms will add to the public's bill for legal work related to the September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge's Fort Lee entrance. Currently taxpayers are responsible for fees from Governor Christie's internal investigation and the lawyer for the Legislature's joint investigative committee looking into the closures. Initial media estimates peg the internal investigation's cost at above $1 million. Reid Schar, the investigative committee's counsel, billed for more than $200,000 in services through the end of January.

The employees receiving state-paid legal services were not identified in the Attorney General Office's statement. "The names of those who requested representation are confidential pursuant to and protected by the attorney-client privilege," Leland Moore, a spokesman for the attorney general, said in the statement.

Moore said the Attorney General's Office is still reviewing other applications for representation.

The requests are focused on responses to legislative subpoenas and not on general defense.

So far the state has received no bills from the five law firms, Moore said.

The firm Marino, Tortorella & Boyle is representing "Governor Christie's campaign manager and political adviser," the Attorney General's Office said in a letter to the firm.

Bill Stepien had been Christie's campaign manager and was set to become chairman of the New Jersey Republican Party. After information surfaced about Stepien's knowledge in the lane closures, however, Christie cut ties with him.

Stepien, who stopped working for the state at the end of last April, will be represented by state-paid lawyers for his time when he was deputy chief of staff and an employee of the state, and not for his later role as campaign manager, the attorney general's letter said. …

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