Streams

NJ Taxpayers Paying for Lawyers on Both Sides of Bridgegate

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gov. Christie walks with Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager. (Tim Larsen/Governor's Office)

Updated Wednesday, 11 am 

New Jersey taxpayers are paying for both sides in the Bridgegate fight. 

The state of New Jersey is footing the majority of the legal fees for Gov. Chris Christie's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, whose documents have been subpoenaed as part of the Bridgegate investigation. Stepien's attorney, Kevin Marino, said the state is paying him $340-an-hour, a portion of his hourly fee. 

That subpoena was issued by the state Legislature's lawyers -- who are also being paid by taxpayers. These attorneys cost $350 an hour.

The Attorney General's Office, which retained Marino, said in a statement that the indemnification of legal costs is limited to when Stepien was a public employee, which ended in April 2013 as Stepien went from a senior staff position in the governor's office to Christie's re-election campaign. But the Legislature subpoenaed documents from both and after that point -- if it had limited its inquiry to afterward, taxpayers would have been off the hook.

 New Jersey law allows employees to have state-funded representation for "civil matters" that "relate to actions taken within the scope of their employment," and also "discretion to provide representation in non-civil matters if doing so is in the best interests of the state," according to the Attorney General's Office statement. So far, no bills have been submitted.

An internal investigation by the Christie Administration played down Stepien's role in last year's lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, placing most of the blame on Port Authority official David Wildstein and Bridget Ann Kelly, Stepien's successor as Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff. But emails show Stepien knew of the lane closures while they were happening. Christie severed ties with Stepien in January.

Four other law firms have also been retained by the state Attorney General's Office to represent those who have been subpoenaed as part of the Bridgegate scandal. Among those whose costs are being handled by taxpayers is spokesman Michael Drewniak, who had communication with David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who ordered the lanes closed to the George Washington Bridge.

In addition, taxpayers are paying for the team of lawyers who wrote an internal review clearing the governor of wrongdoing in both the Bridgegate and Sandy aid scandals. Lawyers for that firm, Gibson Dunn, are paid $650 an hour.

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Comments [2]

Ann Stader

After Christie's big talk about why pensions have to go unfounded and Homestead rebates are not doable he sure is okay with spending money for his pet projects. Example, a Pennsylvania resident who is related to someone on Kim Guadano's staff just got a $120,00. job doing special projects in Dept. Of Taxation. Nobody reports to him and it appears he reports to nobody.

May. 30 2014 11:43 AM
Meredith from nyc

Why is this whole case proceeding at the pace of molasses? The usual commentators and people from the legislative committee, etc keep appearing on msnbc, but they just repeat what we know. They fill up air time and just speculate if, then, maybe, we'll see, etc etc. I know it takes time to read documents but....

To recap....is it that the judge said kelly doesn't have to testify to the legis committee, so that ends that? But she must testify to Fishman the US attny? So when will that get off the ground? And if Wildstein has been ready to talk, so long, why doesn't he? I don't get it. Weeks and months go by. We hear the same thing over, over and over.

Apr. 15 2014 07:39 PM

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