Chris Christie’s name was cleared in the bridge-closing scandal that rocked his office, according to an internal investigation commissioned by the New Jersey governor’s office.
Most significantly, for Christie, the 300-plus page reports concludes, “Our examination of emails, text messages, phone records, and other documents found no evidence that the governor had knowledge of the lane realignment during its implementation.”
However, the report does state that David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who orchestrated the lane closures, said he told Christie about the traffic issue at a public event while the closures were happening. But Christie said that he did not recall the interaction.
Randy Mastro, the lawyer who led the internal investigation, said there was “not a shred of evidence” that Christie knew of the scandal. “Our findings today are a vindication of Gov. Christie,” Mastro said.
Since this was an internal investigation, Mastro had to defend the objectivity of the findings. At a press conference Thursday, he said that because he was hired by the governor’s office and not by the governor himself, there was enough separation for independence.
Here are the main conclusions from the report:
Hoboken mayor’s claim that Christie withheld Sandy money for political leverage is unfounded.
In sum, our investigation has concluded that Mayor Zimmer’s allegations are unsubstantiated and, in material respects, demonstrably false. Whatever subjective perceptions she may have do not match objective reality, as reflected in the hard evidence uncovered during our investigation. Moreover, her allegations are contradicted by contemporaneous documents, other witnesses’ accounts, and her own prior statements. Mayor Zimmer herself has called the sequence of events that she has alleged “unbelievable.”162 Based on our investigation, we would have to agree.
Employees of the Governor’s office should use work email for communications, not personal email, as Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein used to discuss the lane closures.
Absent extraordinary circumstances, public employees working in trusted positions should use their official state email accounts when conducting state business. As a matter of transparency, accountability, and public access, that is the prudent and responsible thing to do.
Eliminate the Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) office that Bridget Kelly ran.
It appeared to have functioned very effectively during the first three years of the Governor’s first term, both in terms of responsiveness and non-partisanship. But then, during the Governor’s re-election year, under Kelly’s stewardship, there was aberrational behavior at Kelly’s direction. While this aberrational conduct was isolated, it has led to misunderstandings that have created appearance issues for IGA going forward.
Appoint an ombudsperson (public advocate) to the governor’s office
To assist the Governor’s Office going forward, and to restore public trust in the many honorable, dedicated public servants who work there, we propose that the Governor appoint an Ombudsperson — a senior statesperson of unquestioned integrity and independence — to serve as a sounding board and resource readily available for receiving complaints within the Governor’s Office and seeing that they get appropriately responded to.
Reform the Port Authority via a bi-state commission with New York.
This Bi-State Commission should be tasked to formulate a reform agenda to restructure the Port Authority to ensure its independence and professionalism going forward. As the George Washington Bridge incident demonstrates, divisions between the Port Authority’s New Jersey and New York counterparts have historically resulted in communication failures, rivalries, and duplication. …
the current appointments structure — whereby one Governor appoints the Chair (and Deputy Executive Director) and the other Governor appoints the Executive Director (and Vice Chair) — only exacerbates that division and, at times, leads to dysfunction.
If the Hoboken mayor’s claims were credible, she should have reported them to law enforcement.
The Governor should consider taking steps to require all State and local elected officials, and perhaps their most senior staffers or cabinet-level appointees, to timely report to law enforcement authorities, or the inspectors general or chief ethics officers responsible for such oversight, any conduct that they believe may constitute crimes being committed on their watch, and imposing appropriate remedies on those public officials who fail to timely report such allegations. This would ensure timely reporting and investigation of any such allegations. And it would address the questions that necessarily arise about the motivations and veracity behind allegations such as Mayor Zimmer’s that are only first publicly made long after the fact.