A big development today in the bridge scandal investigation. A judge sided with two major figures in the case, tossing out the subpoenas against Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien and ruling against the select oversight committee that issued them.
The committee claimed Kelly and Stepien had no right to refuse to hand over documents related to those controversial lane closings on the George Washington Bridge, but the judge felt otherwise, citing their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and Fourth Amendment rights guarding against unreasonable search and seizures.
Kelly used to be deputy chief of staff to Gov. Christie, but was fired after she was connected to that now famous email: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” And Stepien is the former campaign manager who lost his place in the inner circle after his name was linked to the texts and emails.
We don’t know what’s next for them or for the legislative committee that’s been investigating the bridge scandal.
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the committee needs to start implementing reforms.
Schepisi said that the committee absolutely has a place to go after this ruling and needs to start implementing reforms. She said that she doesn’t think that the committee was very surprised with the judge’s decision and had concerns regarding the Fifth Amendment that went back to the day that the subpoenas were issued. She said that she abstained on that vote because she thought that there were very complex legal issues that the committee had not had time to vet and that the subpoenas as issued were overly broad.
Schepisi said that the judge made reference three times to the fact that the subpoenas were very broad, that they were a fishing expedition. She said the committee anticipated a decision such as this and that is why the committee was pushing so hard to move forward and be proactive in implementing reforms.
“We had put forth many weeks ago reforms to the bi-state agencies that would make structural changes that enhance accountability by way of example, if an agency didn’t comply with audits it demands that they couldn’t get new debt, raise tolls and we would institute independent monitors, we would have managerial control, do things for ethics training, mandate financial disclosures, mandate that the agencies would operate in the public eye, comply with the Sunshine Laws. These are all initiatives that do not need the testimony of Bridget Kelly or Bill Stepien,” said Schepisi.
According to Schepisi, Chairman John Wisniewski said that the ultimate purpose of the committee was to find out what had occurred so that the committee could put forth comprehensive reforms for the agency.
“Everybody wants to know why, every member of the committee wants to know why, but there’s a U.S. Attorney’s investigation taking place simultaneously with us doing this. We are not prosecutors,” said Schepisi.