‘Sad’ end to bridge case, lawmakers and Fort Lee mayor say
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Lawmakers who investigated the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal and the Democratic mayor who was targeted in the scheme said on Wednesday the sentencing of two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie marked a sad end to the case.
Former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official Bill Baroni was sentenced to two years in prison. Former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly was sentenced to 18 months. Baroni and Kelly had testified they thought the bridge lane realignment was part of a legitimate traffic study.
A closer look at the reactions:
Sen. Loretta Weinberg co-chaired the Democrat-led Legislature’s inquiry into the political payback scheme, which resulted in the bridge’s access lanes in Fort Lee being closed to create traffic jams.
“I’m not surprised by anything,” Weinberg said. “The whole situation was sad. It was sad for New Jersey, and it gave us a real bird’s eye view of the Christie administration that’s also sad.”
Weinberg said she has “mixed” feelings on whether the committee, which lost authority in 2016 when a new session of the Legislature began, should pursue unanswered questions in the case.
‘HOW PEOPLE PARRY YOU’
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the panel’s co-chairman, said he takes “no pleasure” in the sentencing.
“The problem is Mr. Baroni broke the law and wound up endangering the lives of people for purely political purposes,” said Wisniewski, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
Wisniewski also said that he has approached legislative leaders about restarting the committee but has not gotten a complete answer.
“I know how people parry you,” he said. “I’ve never gotten the answer, ‘No, we’re done,’ or, ‘Yes, we’ll continue.’”
‘NOT A GRUDGE KIND OF GUY’
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said he felt relief that the scandal was coming to a close with the sentencing.
Fort Lee suffered four days of gridlock as part of the plan that shut the bridge’s local lanes to punish Sokolich for not backing Christie for re-election.
Sokolich said he doesn’t have any hard feelings over the scandal.
“I’m not a grudge kind of guy,” he said. “It’s not really in my DNA. I will tell you I’ve moved on with this.”