A member of Gov. Chris Christie’s senior staff told a onetime Port Authority official in an email that it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” in August just weeks before a controversial lane closure, according to documents.
The documents, which were obtained by PolitickerNJ, show an email between Christie’s deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent to a former executive at the Port Authority, David Wildstein.
“Got it,” Wildstein responds to Kelly following her August 13 email to Wildstein, according to the documents.
The email was first reported by The Record.
Wildstein, a former editor of PolitickerNJ, has since resigned from the Port Authority.
An email sent to Christie’s office for comment was not immediately returned.
Christie has said previously that no one in his administration or on his campaign staff was involved in the lane closings.
The documents assert Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, sent a text message to Christie’s top appointee at the Port Authority, Bill Baroni, asking for help on the second day of the traffic jams in September.
“Presently we have four very busy traffic lanes merging into only one toll booth… The bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It’s maddening,” the text reads.
Wildstein later sent the message to an undisclosed recipient who responded back to Wildstein, “Is it wrong that I’m smiling?”
“I feel badly about the kids,” the person, who is unidentifiable due to redacting, wrote to Wildstein in a text.
“They are children of Buono voters,” Wildstein responded. “Bottom line is he didn’t say safety.”
Later in the month, the mayor again contacted Baroni, according to the documents, and asked for a face-to-face meeting with Baroni so someone could “enlighten [him] as to the errors of [his] ways.”
“We should talk,” reads Sokolich’s message to Baroni. “Someone needs to tell me that the recent traffic debacle was not punitive in nature. The last four reporters that contacted me suggest that the people they are speaking with absolutely believe it to be punishment. Try as I may to dispel these rumors I am having a tough time. … A private face-to-face would be important to me. Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to the errors of my ways. Let me know if you’ll give me 10 minutes.”
The same day the message was sent to Baroni, the former state senator and Christie appointee to the Port Authority asked to schedule a meeting with Wildstein in an apparent effort to deal with media interest in the story, according to the documents.
Wildstein then told Baroni in a text message that Ted Mann, a Wall Street Journal reporter investigating the lane closures, “just called my cell.”
“Jesus,” Baroni responded, adding, “call Drewniak,” referring to Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak.
The next day, Christie’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, exchanged messages with Wildstein in response to a Wall Street Journal report about local officials’ complaints.
“The mayor is an idiot,” wrote Stepien. “[Win] some, lose some.”
“It will be a tough November for this little Serbian,” responded Wildstein, in an apparent reference to Fort Lee’s mayor who Baroni also referred to as “Serbia” in a text.
A day before resigning from the Port Authority, Wildstein sent Drewniak an email thanking the governor’s spokesman for “all [his] sounds advice last night.”
“I always appreciate your friendship,” Wildstein wrote on Dec. 5, adding that he spoke with state Sen. Kevin O’Toole “this morning” and that the lawmaker would “talk to you later today.”
“Same to you, David, and thanks for a great dinner,” Drewniak responded.
The next day, Drewniak forwarded Wildstein a statement he sent to a reporter for a story about Wildstein’s resignation.
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"Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Hudson County Democrat, is balking. He claimed Tuesday that members of his caucus are divided over the measure and that his house is in no real rush – besides, even if enacted this year, the reforms would not take effect until 2017, he said. And with the growing belief that Christie could skip town to run for president, some Democrats are not eager to give him another talking point for his résumé. Christie’s plans to stump for Republican candidates in New Hampshire later Thursday only fuel that suspicion." - columnist Charles Stile- The Bergen Record
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