Role of Port Authority Police in GWB Lane Closures Probed

By David Cruz

As they wait for the reams of documents they’ve subpoenaed, members of the legislative committee looking into the George Washington Bridge lane closures are settling in for what could prove to be a very long process.

“There hasn’t been hard or fast deadlines given, which we might get to next if information doesn’t continue to flow,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg, co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Investigations.

Rather than fizzling as some critics had predicted, the investigation into this matter appears to be deepening and widening suggesting now an even larger role by the Port Authority police.

Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye has reportedly called for an investigation into whether this man – Lieutenant Thomas “Chip” Michaels -
drove David Wildstein around while the traffic piled up. Wildstein’s the former PA official who allegedly gave the go-ahead for the September lane closure. Michaels, like Wildstein is a Livingston native, friend of Christie, former coach for Christie’s son’s hockey team, and brother of Republican lobbyist Jeff Michaels, who talked about his close ties to the governor back in 2010.

“I’ve known him for a ling time,” Michaels said in a 2010 broadcast of New Jersey Capitol Report. “Our families knew each other from Livingston and just stayed in close contact with him over the years and I was very happy to help his campaign out with policy.”

Weinberg says the circle of people who knew about the lane closures was not large, “but a certain number of them seem to have gone to Livingston High School, so I don’t know what kind of civics lessons they’re giving in Livingston High School but it might be a good thing to find out.”

Christie’s office says they never talked with Lieutenant Michaels about the GWB lane closures. These latest revelation follow on the heels of charges by several motorists, who reported that Port Authority police told them to ask Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich about why the lanes were closed. Attorney Rosemarie Arnold represents several motorists who are suing the governor and Port Authority over the lane closures.

“It does not surprise me in the least to hear that,’ said Arnold. “In my investigation in furtherance of our class action suit I have been told that the same thing happened to at least one client of mine at the toll booth when my client asked the toll booth operator ‘hey what’s going on’ a Port Authority cop within earshot responded why don’t you ask your mayor.”

At the height of the traffic crisis, Sokolich repeatedly told Christie Administration officials that he was hearing the same thing.

“Come Thursday it’s happened again, kids are late, there’s chaos, emails, I mean you got no idea the calls I was getting,” Sokolich said in January. “At that point, I was almost convinced it was retribution.”

The Port Authority press office wasn’t taking calls today and Weinberg says the committee has yet to receive documents from several key players – including the governor’s office and PA chairman David Samson – which they’ll need to see before they can schedule another public session.