It was a bit of a surprise when I received a phone call shortly before deadline last night from a very agitated Patrick Foye, Cuomo’s hand-picked Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. I thanked Foye for reaching out, but it became clear pretty quickly we were not going exchange pleasantries.
He was furious, saying he heard that I had a bunch of “fukakta f*%#ing theories” about the Bridgegate scandal that’s been tormenting Governor Chris Christie — and that Governor Cuomo has been trying to avoid.
I may be the world’s worst Jew, but I did grow up around enough Yiddish to understand what Foye meant. It was difficult to get much else from the conversation, which felt a bit like a verbal barrage of salty language and vitriolic venom.
On Wednesday, the Port Authority held it’s first monthly meeting since the Bridgegate scandal really took on steam. Foye is the central figure in the case because he was the first person to call the controversial lane closures on the George Washington Bridge a “violation of federal law and the laws of both states.”
Foye expressed that belief in an internal September 13th email sent to other Port Authority officials in September and CCed Howard Glaser, a top aide to Cuomo.
At the meeting we asked Foye whether he reported his belief to proper authorities. Foye said he sent an email to the Inspector General, the law enforcement arm within the the bi-state agency. fair enough. But that was it? Glaser apparently had one phone conversation with Foye after that, but never spoke to the Governor about the case.
But if your top guy at the Port Authority – who happens to run the agency – suggests a crime was committed, might that rise to the level of at least a conversation with the Governor? Cuomo Administration officials have maintained that they believed it was a mess that was somehow contained to Jersey. The problem with that is twofold:
1) Anything that is done under the auspices of the Port Authority (like lane closures enforced by PA police) is immediately the problem of both states, since it’s a bi-state agency. There is no “New Jersey” side or “New York” side.
2) Foye’s email explicitly said New York law was violated…that’s what “both states” means.
Foye yesterday refused to say whether he ever had a conversation with Cuomo. I asked him a variation of this question at least three times, and he referred me to the governor’s office on “second floor” – which is odd because the second floor had referred me to him.
Cuomo has said that he first learned of the lane closures in October when it hit the press. So, did he and Foye have a conversation then? The legislature in New Jersey finally began to investigate, and that’s when Foye was called down to Trenton to testify.
But it was not until that testimony on December 9th that Foye revealed there had been no traffic study – the stated reason from the Christie appointees (who have since been fired) as to why the lanes were actually closed. Clearly, Foye had already conducted his own internal investigation and determined that malfeasance was afoot. It’s an open question whether people could have known about this case on the “New York” side and kept quiet to avoid getting into a messy scrum with Christie.
Matt Wing, a spokesman for Governor Cuomo says,
“Clearly Pat Foye acquitted himself exactly as a public servant should.”
Let’s look at the oath and guidelines Foye is obligated to uphold. According to the Port Authority’s own ethics policy,
“No employee shall commit any act or neglect any duty which in any way is prejudicial to good order, discipline, or efficiency, or reflects unfavorably upon the good name and reputation of the Port Authority, or adversely affects the interests of the Port Authority or those of the general public.”
In addition, as a lawyer, Foye is obligated to uphold rules of professional conduct outlined by the Unified New York State Court System which includes,
“A lawyer should maintain high standards of professional conduct and should encourage other lawyers to do likewise…Obedience to law exemplifies respect for law. To lawyers especially, respect for the law should be more than a platitude.”
Foye didn’t simply write a hyperbolic email on September 13th. He doubled down on the claim that a crime had been committed Wednesday saying,
I believe then and I believe now, and obviously given the multiplicity of law enforcement investigations underway there is some serious question of violations of federal and state laws. It was my belief then, it is my belief now.
It’s clear the culture of secrecy is alive and well at this massive bi-state agency. And when things go wrong there is a tendency to hush them up out of an overarching concern about the agency’s bond rating. These agencies were set up to be above the politics of both states — but now it appears that it could be operating beyond the laws of them as well. The Port Authority has been operating in a gray netherworld where a lack of transparency keeps pests in the press from finding out what is actually going on.
But when something really bad happens, the ultimate authorities here – in this case the two Governors – are obligated to find out the truth and be honest about what they know. That appears not to have happened here.
And that is what I would call “fakakta.”
|Print article||This entry was posted by Zack Fink on February 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo, Bridgegate, Chris Christie, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|