Tracking The Bridgegate Timeline
Let’s try to unravel the tangled Bridgegate scandal a little bit more on the other side of the Hudson River.
Last week, in a now infamous phone conversation, Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said he informed the Inspector General of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Foye wrote an email on September 13th calling the lane closures a violation of federal law and the laws of both states. Well, it turns out the Inspector General’s office was not CC-ed on that email. The Inspector General is the investigative/law enforcement arm within the Port Authority, so it would stand to reason that if Foye discovered a violation of law, the first thing he should have done was notify law enforcement or at the very least the Authority’s Inspector General. He did none of those things initially.
It was not until November 27th when Former New Jersey Senate President and Governor Dick Codey wrote a letter to the Inspector General formally calling for a investigation that one was commenced. Sources tell me the Inspector General’s office conducted it’s own review and has handed over everything it found to Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney in Newark.
But now, the Port Authority is claiming the Inspector General’s office had been informed, they just decided not to open a formal investigation. Conveniently, there is no paper trail. In a statement, Chris Valens of the Port Authority said,
The Port Authority Inspector General’s office has confirmed that Executive Director Pat Foye called the Inspector General in October to discuss the GWB lane closure incident and inform the IG that Foye was opening a review of the matter. The IG noted during that conversation that it was aware of the incident and had opened its own review into the matter as well. Subsequently, the IG opened a formal investigation.
This of course falls far short of demanding an investigation.
What crimes were committed here? It’s hard to say exactly, but insiders believe one could start with illegal use of government employees, disruption of interstate commerce, interfering with the safety of citizens, conspiracy to commit fraud and misuse of government property, to name just a few. It also seems possible that by not reporting those crimes there was a violation of the public officer’s law which states in part,
An officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should endeavor to pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that he is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of his trust.
So, did the New York side do it’s duty, or did Governor Cuomo’s hand-picked Executive Director fail to follow proper protocols. One investigator tell me “there is no question Foye could have done more.” Governor Cuomo so far has stood behind Foye and his actions. He seems to think Foye did all he could. It’s interesting because last year Cuomo introduced a program bill targeting public corruption which would have specifically required a public official to report misconduct, otherwise that individual would have faced a misdemeanor charge.
Finally, it’s worth noting how hard the Port Authority fought subpoenas from the New Jersey Legislature in the early days of the scandal. The bi-state agency had retained Gibson Dunn, a high powered law firm. Sources say When the investigative committee asked for documents, Randy Mastro, a partner at Gibson Dunn and a former Deputy Mayor, initially resisted for several months. When the committee inquired about where the documents it had requested were, the firm responded that they had turned over all documents that “weren’t privileged.” But they never explained what “privileged” meant. There are all kinds of privilege, Attorney-client being the most obvious, but the Authority’s attorneys simply stonewalled, claiming they would provide documents on a “rolling basis.” Mastro has since been retained by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to conduct an internal review of what happened at the bridge for the Governor’s office.
So, in conclusion we know that the culture of secrecy at the Port Authority may have prevented proper procedures and protocols from being followed when a crime had allegedly been committed. Moreover, that secrecy appears to have carried over to the Port Authority’s outside counsel when it came time to put the cards on the table, reveal what they know and cooperate with an investigation. That is big problem. Numerous lawmakers have called for reform of the agency, but that gets tricky because reform packages would have to pass four houses, the Senate and Assembly of both states. Further complicating matters is that the New Jersey legislation takes on all authorities, which means The Delaware River Port Authority would be included and Pennsylvania would have to pass identical legislation. What are the chances that all six houses will pass these bills and three Governors will sign them? About as likely as the Port Authority coming clean about it’s actions and not spending the better part of six months covering up Bridgegate.
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