The process of analyzing what transpired in September 2013 when lanes of the George Washington Bridge were shut down was starting to reach a point where there was a stalemate occurring between the State Legislature committee and the top two individuals they have requested from more information. Both Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien were refusing to provide information after being subpoenaed.
The lack of adherence to the committee’s requests would lead Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) to begin the effort to press a judge to take Kelly and Stepien to court to require them to turn over important documents and testimonies they would be able to provide to the investigation being conducted.
With Kelly and Stepien refusing to cooperate and their attorneys safeguarding them, a date was set for them to appear in court. On March 11th, both sides would be able to present their case.
Before that court date, an investigator from the U.S. Attorney’s office would seek an opportunity to sit down with Kelly and talk about the lane closures. The U.S. Attorney, like the legislative committee, had also asked for more information via subpoenas from both Kelly and Stepien.
While most of attention focused on Kelly and Stepien and what they could provide the investigation into everything that transpired last Fall, David Samson was largely avoiding equal attention while also being a crucial piece of the puzzle. That would change as the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) would too be subpoenaed as part of the investigation process. Samson’s connection to Christie personally would create a larger spotlight on Samson than what normally would have existed through his role with the PANYNJ alone.
However, in a quick twist of fate, the subpoena would be rescinded only a few days later.
A few days later, the court appearance would take place.
Judge Mary C. Jacobson would preside over the March 11th court date for Kelly and Stepien and the State Legislature committee. There would be no official ruling but a lengthy series of questions for both the attorneys for Kelly and Stepien as well as the legal team for the investigation committee. Jacobson felt stronger about Kelly’s necessity to provide more information with her email about causing traffic problem being a centerpiece of this whole ordeal. While Stepien’s role and deep connection to different aspects was not as clear from initial evidence.
With the court matter not providing much change, Wisniewski began to express frustration with the pace of responses to subpoenas and tangible information and the process as a whole.
Candidly, I’m a little frustrated at the pace of production. It seems that we’ve tried to be accommodating and reasonable to folks, and I’m not there yet, but I’m close to feeling like we’re being abused in being accommodating. It just seems like it’s taking forever and that certainly was not the intention.
Roughly half of the near 40 subpoenas had been responded to at this point. Clearly not acceptable for what the committee had hoped during their investigation.
Stepien was was certainly one of those causing frustration for Wisniewski with his lack of cooperation with providing information that the committee believed he had. Then, a new wrinkle would unfold: emails and communication that created a stronger connection between Stepien and the call to close lanes.
As Wisniewski would voice,
What has been crystallized seems to be a political overtone in how the responses to the media were handled. Clearly, when they are sending communications to the governor’s primary campaign person (Stepien), it at least indicates there is some political considerations on how this is handled.
While most of the focus during the early months of the year revolved around Kelly and Stepien and gathering further documents and testimony and the investigation process of gathering information in general, there would be a change on the committee as one Democrat would step down and be replaced. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-15) would go on MSNBC and call for Governor Christie to resign for having any role with the lane closures during an interview. Seeing as she might have overstepped her bounds based on the investigation still being in process, she decided to remove herself from the committee. In her place would be Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4).
Moriarty would state upon joining the committee,
I look forward to helping get answers about the abuse of government power and threat to public safety that surrounded these lane closings. The committee has made great progress shedding light on what happened here, but more work remains. I thank the Speaker for this appointment and look forward to the results of our work.
As progress was hard to come by as were words in general by either Kelly or Stepien, their respective attorneys almost on a daily basis were finding ways to attack the committee for their false accusations against their clients or its mission in general. Things would only continue to intensify between the two sides.