The legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal issued 18 new or amended subpoenas Monday, indicating its inquiry is stretching deeper into the governor’s office and branching out into new areas.
CHRIS PEDOTA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
From left, State Sen. Kevin O’Toole; committee’s special counsel, Reid Schar; and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the committee’s co-chair, before the committee went into executive session.
Some of those state employees already subpoenaed — and possibly those who either resigned or were fired since the start of the controversy — are asking for taxpayer support for their legal bills. And as the legislative probe appears to expand, lawmakers signaled they may be headed to court to obtain documents that two people have refused to turn over.
Full Coverage: Chris Christie and the GWB lane closure controversy
Governor Christie, once considered the front-runner for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, has his own investigation running, but his office would not say anything about it as the governor prepared to head to Chicago for a speech on the economy and for a fundraising visit for GOP candidates.
Among the new subpoena recipients are the governor’s deputy who handles complaints from constituents, and the State Police Aviation Unit, which operates the governor’s helicopter.
State lawmakers want to know whether Christie flew over the bridge anytime during the week of the lane closures, according to a source familiar with the investigation. They also are trying to find out whether anyone involved in the scandal was in the helicopter with him, the source said.
Christie used the helicopter four times that week. One was on Sept. 11, the third day of the lane closures, when the governor flew to Trenton after a memorial service in New York City — the service where he was photographed talking to David Wildstein, the Port Authority employee who apparently carried out the lane closures. The other three trips were in South Jersey.
Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie, said Wildstein “has never flown in the helicopter with the governor.”
Other new subpoenas are going to staff members in the governor’s office. They include Rosemary Iannacone, director of operations; Barbara Panebianco, executive assistant to Bridget Anne Kelly, the Christie aide who sent the email that apparently ordered the lane closures; and Jeanne Ashmore, director of constituent relations, the office that handles complaints and questions from New Jerseyans.
Christie has maintained that he did not know about the closures until they were reported in news media. Had people complained of missed appointments or other problems arising from the resulting traffic jams in Fort Lee, Ashmore’s office likely would have handled the calls.
Port Authority officials are also on the list. Among them are John Ma, the executive director’s chief of staff; Mark Muriello, assistant director of tunnels, bridges and terminals; and several assistants to Wildstein and Bill Baroni, the Port Authority deputy executive director who, like Wildstein, resigned in December.
The subpoenas suggest the committee is taking a deeper look at the governor’s office, seeking information from individuals who oversaw independent authorities — including the Port Authority — the governor’s director of constituent relations and the head of operations in his office.
The Record obtained the list of new subpoenas Monday evening. Committee members declined to publicly name the subjects of the subpoenas.
“We’re going to wait until all the documents are served, and then we’ll fill you in with the details of who got served and what, but we’re certainly not going to announce the service of process today at this press conference,” Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chairman of the committee, said.