By David Cruz
Bill Baroni’s resignation – just one week after the resignation of his subordinate David Wildstein – was the other – but maybe not the last – shoe to drop in the Port Authority GWB lane closing controversy. Or is it? This morning – while announcing Baroni’s replacement – Deborah Gramiccioni – the governor played down the Baroni departure.
“I already had planned, and he knew I had planned, to replace him a while back with Deb, and it was no surprise to him but he offered his resignation now and I accepted it, as I said, because I thought it was the appropriate thing to do, given all the distraction that’s going on,” said Christie.
But a skeptical press corps pressed the governor about the timing and whether it represented an admission of some sort.
“Mistakes were made and people have to be held accountable for them,” he continued. “Senator Baroni went in front of the committee and took responsibility for the fact that he did not follow the protocols that exist at the Port Authority in approving the traffic study that was recommended by Mr. Wildstein.”
Democrats were quick to pounce on the announcement as confirmation that their search for answers was more than just what the gov. called a “partisan obsession.”
“I think the actions of these individuals were taken on behalf – on behalf – of the governor,” said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson. “I’m not going to say the governor was behind this, or planned this, but we have more testimony coming and more subpoenas have gone out, and let’s find out why this happened.”
Loretta Weinberg, who says she has had a difficult time getting any information from the Port Authority said she hoped today would mark a turning point at the PA. “There’s got to be a real sea change into the attitudes at the Port Authority,” she said. “If nothing else, this glimpse of the way business was done there is really a little frightening.”
As for Baroni’s replacement, Gramiccioni is another close Christie confidant from his days at the US Attorneys office. She most recently served as his deputy chief of staff.
Despite reciting a litany of ways that Gramiccioni had helped clean up corruption and incompetence at a number of independent authorities, the governor said she was not being sent to the PA to clean house.
“I’m looking for her to be her, which will be more than the Port Authority can handle, I guarantee you,” said Christie. “It’s been plenty for me to handle over the last 10 years, and it’ll be more than the Port Authority can handle.”
The Assembly Transportation committee is likely to hold more hearings and has subpoena power until the end of the term, so Baroni, whose last appearance before them was voluntary, albeit contentious, could find himself back here again – very soon.
To the questions of what did he know and when did he know it, the governor answered “not much, and just recently” but he did take ultimate responsibility for the actions of Baroni and Wildstein today, adding that ultimate responsibility is a lot different than direct responsibility.