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Legislative Committee to Meet Again Amid Questions of Cost and Partisanship

4-4-14

By David Cruz
Correspondent

All this talk of Gov. Chris Christie’s mojo being back after the release of the report by Randy Mastro last week makes Sen. Loretta Weinberg shake her head.

“What does that mean,” she asked today, exasperated. “Being nasty to the press and people who ask him questions at town halls that he doesn’t like? Some people might describe that as Mojo. I’d say, yeah, the governor’s back to the original personality that got him into this trouble to begin with.”

Nonetheless, after the report cleared him of involvement in the GWB lane closures scheme, Christie has been making the rounds of network TV shows and even met reporters for the first time in months.

Meanwhile, the Democratic-led joint legislative committee investigating the lane closures is scheduled to hold its first meeting since February on Tuesday, with a new round of subpoenas expected, although Weinberg gave barely a hint of whom they may decide to subpoena next. Like maybe other Port Authority people.

“Who probably are not in a position to worry about taking the 5th amendment to protect themselves,” she said.

But Republican Committee member Holly Schepisi says the panel has pretty much the same evidence used in the Christie-ordered Mastro Report. And that even if a judge orders two former Christie staffers to provide them with documents, it’s unlikely they’ll ever appear before the committee personally.

“I can’t imagine that either the [attorney general] or the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not going to tell us to step aside because they’re not going to want our legislative committee to be able to grant immunity if they’re doing a criminal investigation themselves,” she noted.

And there is now growing interest in the cost of all this investigating to taxpayers. Published reports say the Mastro inquiry cost a million dollars and that the legislative committee has spent another quarter million, all taxpayer dollars. Schepisi says getting a handle on what taxpayers are actually getting for their money is among the questions she expects to bring up on Tuesday.

“What we’re hoping is that on Tuesday we may be provided with updates as to where some of these items stand because it’s been more than a month in some instances and we haven’t gotten information,” she said.

The governor’s report on the bridge scandal – flawed as some may consider it – is as close to an official word as there is. The onus is now on the Democrats to present a counter narrative from what may eventually be the same information.