Meet the 9 People Entangled in Christie's GWB Controversy

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 03:51 PM

Gov. Chris Christie talks with from left, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, after holding a press conference on Sick Pay Reform with elected officials at the National Guard Armory in Teaneck, N.J. (Tim Larsen/N. J. Governor's Office)

Here's a primer on the major players involved in the George Washington Bridge traffic-jam controversy.

DAVID WILDSTEIN: The first casualty of the controversy, Wildstein is described by his many political enemies as a "political jihadist" and the "prince of darkness." Friends, though, call him loyal, intelligent and a committed public servant. Both camps describe him as complicated.

A Livingston High classmate of Gov. Chris Christie's (see his yearbook photo, left) and later a 20-something mayor of their town, Wildstein is a political junkie: He collects New Jersey legislative manuals dating to the 19th century, and he ran the popular political gossip sheet, (later under the cloak of anonymity.

A political operative once hired a private investigator to out him, but his identity was only revealed when Christie created a position for him at the Port Authority, where he developed a reputation for cracking skulls on the governor's behalf. Wildstein resigned after it was learned that he ordered the traffic study that led to lane closures and a series of massive, controversial traffic jams.


PATRICK FOYE: The executive director at the Port Authority, Foye is an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who blew the controversy wide open when he declared under oath at a legislative hearing that he was aware of no traffic study. That raised questions about why lanes were closed, who ordered them closed, and whether Christie knew anything about it. Earlier this year, Wildstein bought, apparently without Foye's knowledge.


BILL BARONI: Known as a well-liked, pro-gay marriage, union-friendly Republican state senator, Baroni was tapped as Christie's top staffer at the Port Authority. He made a name for himself when he was summoned to Congress to explain toll hikes at the Hudson River crossings, only to turn the hearing around on the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Christie nemesis who was leading the campaign against the hikes. Baroni ticked-off the free trips that the millionaire senator had taken across the river crossings. He later tried the same aggressive charm when summoned to a hearing about the lane closures, repeatedly pivoting to whether it was a "fair" for the town of Fort Lee to have its own lanes to the bridge. Two of Fort Lee's three lanes were closed as part of the "traffic study" without Port Authority officials, local police or the media knowing. Baroni resigned last week.


CHRIS CHRISTIE: The governor does not have his fingerprints on the lane closures. His inner circle hasn't even been implicated. But now that two men in the outer-rung of Team Christie — Baroni and Wildstein, long-time Christie associates and poobahs in New Jersey politics — have fallen, Democrats smell blood. (Christie and Wildstein went to high school together; Christie yearbook photo to the left). Democrats are awaiting subpoenaed correspondence indicating that Christie's front office or campaign team either: a) Ordered the lane closures as retribution against the Fort Lee mayor, who didn't endorse Christie, or b) Tried to suppress information from getting out after the traffic jam. This may be the stickiest controversy Christie has faced over his entire four years in office.


MARK SOKOLICH: The silent one. Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, didn't endorse Christie's re-election. Was that why his town was punished with massive traffic jams on the first week of school (which also fell on Yom Kippur and the Sept. 11 anniversary)? At the time, Sokolich alleged in a letter that there were "punitive overtones" to the traffic study and ensuing traffic jams, with anonymous sources telling reporters he was leaned on to endorse the governor. Sokolich quickly walked back his comments, and now he refuses to say what he thinks. But he may be called to testify under oath at a legislative hearing. PLUS: Christie had said he didn't recall ever even meeting Sokolich, but a picture of the men has since surfaced. See the photo at the top of the story.


ROBERT DURANDO: The general manager of the George Washington Bridge — a 30-year employee of the Port Authority — delivered some of the most damning testimony last week. He described the lane closures as bizarre and unprecedented, and said Wildstein inexplicably ordered him not to warn officials in Fort Lee, the very town turned into a parking lot by the traffic study. And when asked if a "culture of fear" exists at the Port Authority, he paused for 10 seconds without answering.



LORETTA WEINBERG: The first elected Democrat to sound the alarm about the traffic jams, Sen. Weinberg represents Fort Lee. And as the senate majority leader, she enjoys clout — especially as other more Christie-friendly Democrats, like Senate President Stephen Sweeney, avoid criticizing the governor. The 78-year-old widow is making the national TV rounds, demanding a congressional investigation and settling an old score: Christie once implored reporters to "take the bat out" on her for collecting a pension and legislative salary at the same time.



JOHN WISNIEWSKI: The former chairman of the state Democratic party, Assemblyman Wisniewski once toyed with the idea of running against Christie. But as a legislator in forgotten Central Jersey, he lacks muscle from the North and South Jersey political bosses. Now, as the chairman and lead interrogator on the committee investigating the Port Authority, Wisniewski may have found a platform for a future statewide bid. He is being praised by Democrats and (quietly) by Republicans for the measured way he is trying to hone in on Christie, the most popular Republican in the country.


DEBORAH GRAMICCIONI: The tornado comes with a smile. Gramiccioni, a long-time Christie subordinate, was the head of Christie's Authorities Unit, in charge of overseeing shadowy agencies like the Port Authority, earning a reputation for being tough but gracious. Gramiccioni got her "Tornado" nickname back at the U.S. Attorney's Office, where she worked for Christie as a corruption-buster. She has now been tapped to replace Baroni as deputy executive director of the Port Authority so she can try to stop the bleeding for her boss. Gramiccioni once gave Christie cover after he allegedly fell asleep at a Bruce Springsteen show, which just may have helped her land the new gig.


Comments [8]

We need: 'The 7 Noahide Laws' NOW!

Jan. 13 2014 08:50 PM
Boruch N. Hoffinger from Brooklyn NY

Why let 'The fox guard the chicken coop?'
If the laws against such political aggression, like 'Bridgegate' were tougher, perhaps such actions would never happen?
Who makes these laws? Other foxes.
Why must we fire people? They are thrown out and forgotten, while their families and friends suffer in many ways.
If one truly cares about America one would use REAL WISDOM, not man's wisdom.
Many are correctly angry at the terrible political hatred that allows such behavior, but who wouldn't become corrupted when near power and money? Only a fool would think they are immune.
Use G-d's wisdom, turn to 'The 7 Noahide Laws' for a happier and healthier society.
...."The U.S. Congress officially recognized 'The 7 Noahide Laws' in legislation which was passed by both houses. Congress and the President of the United States, George Bush, (Pres. Ronald Reagan, also) indicated in Public Law 102-14, 102nd Congress, that the United States of America was founded upon the Seven Universal Laws of Noah ('Noach'), and that these Laws have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization. They also acknowledged that the Seven Laws of Noah are the foundation upon which civilization stands and that recent weakening of these principles threaten the fabric of civilized society, and that justified preoccupation in educating the Citizens of the United States of America and future generations is needed. For this purpose, this Public Law designated March 26, 1991 as Education Day, U.S.A."...

Jan. 13 2014 08:38 PM

These at the very least should be added:

Bridget Kelly, just-fired Deputy Chief of Staff
Charles McKenna, Gov. Christie's Chief Legal Counsel "Charlie said you did GREAT"
Bill Stepien, just instructed by Christie not to become head of NJ GOP
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Middlesex Democrat who is leading the legislative probe
David Samson, Chairman of the Port Authority board. Wildstein wrote to Kelly: "The New York side gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning. We are appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us to retaliate."

Jan. 10 2014 12:19 PM
Mary from Panama

Didn't you forget Bridget Kelly?

Jan. 09 2014 12:34 PM
SFJoe from New York

Let us not forget that this is the same governor who blocked billions in Federal aid that would have helped build another train tunnel to cross the Hudson.

Dec. 18 2013 10:24 AM

It's frightening that the roads servicing the busiest bridge in the world could be turned into a parking lot for four days without the head of the PA, Patrick Foye being aware that there is a problem. Was he spending all of his time at lunch meetings? And that Robert Durando, the general manager of the George Washington bridge could be intimidated into silence about the situation. At the very least, this is gross disrespect for the general public, their time, their health and their freedom of movement. Please continue to investigate this. I live in New York and was not affected by this but I am incensed over the ability of these people to waste people's time and money playing these political games.

Dec. 18 2013 10:04 AM
Larry Dell from East Orange, NJ

Lost in this scandal is the ongoing story of NJs crumbling transportation infrastructure. Anyone who regularly travels roads and rails in the Garden State knows that they're a mess and that Governor Nukky is not getting the job done. Instead he's cutting back on repairs as well as major projects like the Hudson River rail tunnel. A true conservative and traditionalist he seems intent on making sure that future generations share the frustration of present day travel in the state.

Dec. 18 2013 09:40 AM
iMan9796 from New Jersey

This same disgusting corruption, cover-up & retaliation is standard operating procedure at the Port Authority Bus Terminal's Lost & Found Dept. in NYC concerning lost & found property brazenly stolen by Port Authority Supervisors. Google  “Donna Lebourne abc news" & see the vile face of shame being confronted & exposed for the world to see.

Port Authority Supervisor Donna Lebourne has an outside job, she is the Vice President of her & her husband’s charity Caribbean Sports International that donates cellphones & other electronics. It's very easy to be charitable when you are giving away other peoples' property.

Also, the Port Authority of NY & NJ has become a threat to national security and has placed everyone's safety & security in jeopardy, by undermining all the counter-terrorism measures that have been put in place by the United States. They have allowed crimes such as the illegal policy of disposing lost valid passports in the garbage that are found in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Now just imagine the damage that a terrorist cell could do with those valid lost passports or an identity theft ring. 

What happened in Kenya could easily happen here, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, as a result of the Port Authority's intentional breach of national security. This is a willful act of treason against the United States of America. Google "Port Authority - Passports."

NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly agrees with my concerns as well.

If the Port Authority will not prosecute and punish their own supervisors for theft, especially when they are caught redhanded, how much confidence do you have in their ability to actually put a stop to their illegal passport policy? The Port Authority's inaction and cover-up is tantamount to treason.

Action must be taken against these corrupt incompetent criminals in the Port Authority before another terrorist attack takes place & more innocent lives are lost due to their utter disregard about our safety and security, not to mention their disgraceful feeling of self entitlement to patron's lost property found at the PABT.
Google “found, stolen, trashed by PA.”

The culture of fear is alive and well at the Port, because crime, corruption, cover-ups & retaliation is the Port Authority way. Believe me, I know firsthand and I have the evidence to prove it.

It’s time to stop the madness!

Dec. 17 2013 09:34 PM

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