New documents released on the Fort Lee lane closure scandal, also known as Bridgegate, reveal that New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie's top two Port Authority appointees ignored danger warnings issued by the agency's executive director.
Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye - in an angry 13 September e-mail to the then Deputy Director Bill Baroni and Authority Chairman David Samson, had complained about the lane closure and said that the action may have violated the law, but the two officials took little or no action.
"I am appalled by the lack of process, failure to inform our customers and Fort Lee and most of all by the dangers created to public interest, so I am reversing this decision now effective as soon as TBT and PAPD tell me it is safe to do so today," Foye wrote at 7:44 am, according to the documents subpoenaed by New Jersey Lawmakers investigating the massive, four-day traffic jam on the George Washington bridge.
"This hasty and ill-advised decision has resulted in delays to emergency vehicles," he wrote, "I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital or hospice-bound patient delayed...I believe this hasty and ill-advised decision violates Federal Law and the laws of both States."
But Bill Baroni, the top official at the authority, drew back Foye's decision, the documents reveal.
"Pat we need to discuss prior to any communications," Baroni Wrote to Foye at 8: 40 am a little after Foye asked, "How do we get the word out?" indicating his intention to reopen the access lanes.
"Bill we are going to fix this fiasco," Foye replied at 8:55 am, seeming to be adamant.
But Baroni replied at 9:03 am with a seemingly evasive statement: "I am on way to discuss. There can be no public discourse". Boroni has now resigned.
Meanwhile, the documents also reveal how the Port Authority's chairman David Samson battled with the executive director over the lane closures.
Samson expressed his anger with Foye in a series of e-mails sent to Scott Rechler, vice chairman of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners on September 17 and 18. He accused Foye of leaking information about the lane closures to the Wall Street Journal.
Rechler disputed Samson's accusation and said that he did not think Foye leaked the Journal story. But Samson appeared to insist that Foye was the source of the leak.
"Scott: I just read it and it confirms evidence of Foye's being the leak, stirring up trouble - this is yet another example of a story, we've seen it before, where he distances himself from an issue in the press and rides in on a white horse to save the day (if you need prior examples I will provide) - in this case, he's playing in traffic, made a big mistake," he wrote in a n18 September email.
The scandal has led to many analysts speculating that Christie, seen as a likely contender for the White House in 2016, has lost his credibility. Christie has said that he knew nothing about the plan until damaging emails from his staff were revealed on Wednesday. He said that he fired a top aide responsible for the traffic chaos.
In an emotional 115-minute press conference from the governor's office in Trenton, New jersey, Chris Christie said on Thursday: "I am heartbroken that someone I allowed in my inner circle for last five years betrayed my trust. I would never have come out four weeks ago and made a joke about these lane closures had I known that anyone in my staff had been so stupid to have anything to do with this and so deceitful,"
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat who chairs the Transportation Committee, told the Reuters that the newly released documents, however, raised more questions than they answer about whether or not Christie knew that the jam was caused deliberately.