Source: The Star-Ledger 

A co-chairman of the legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal said the indictment of two former Christie administration appointees Friday did not answer the question at the heart of the scheme: Who gave the order to close the toll lanes in Fort Lee?

For that reason, state Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) said he intends to reconvene the Joint Select Committee on Investigation to find the answer.

But the committee’s other co-chair, state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) said she wanted to meet with the committee’s in-house attorney before she was willing to discuss the next move. “We have things to talk about. For me, nothing I heard shocked me but hearing it sickened me,” Weinberg said.

And Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (r-bergen) said now that the case has entered into the criminal arena, the committee should confine its efforts to proposing new legislation that would improve the accountability of the port authority and state officials. Otherwise, she said, the committee should disband.

“Something like this should be left to those who do it for a living and be investigated by the professionals, and not the politicians who are trying to get into the newspaper or on TV,” Schepisi said, taking a swipe at Weinberg and Wisniewski, who were frequent guests on national cable news channels after the scandal broke in January 2014.

Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, a former top official with the Port Authority, and former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni were indicted on conspiracy, civil right offenses and wire fraud for tampering with the traffic flow around the bridge.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said the scheme was intended to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to endorse Christie’s bid for re-election in 2013. The case against them stems largely from information provided by former Port Authority official David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty Friday morning to two counts of conspiracy and is a cooperating witness.

The legislative committee last year subpoenaed thousands of records and obtained testimony under oath from six witnesses. The committee learned the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, which was under Kelly’s purview, kept track of elected officials who supported the governor and those who didn’t. Mayors considered unsupportive to Christie were treated less favorably than his allies by staffers inside his office, many of whom moonlighted on his re-election campaign.

A top liaison between Christie and local officials, Christina Renna, told the committee her staff would receive “mandatory directives” to brush off calls from unsupportive officials.

The indictment delves into the cross-over between the campaign and the governor’s front office staff. Weinberg and Wisniewski said the indictment makes them want to dig deeper on this front.

Schepisi said the legislative committee should be commended “for bringing this to the attention of the U.S. Attorney” early on. But as the months wore on, she said, “we were a kangaroo court.”

“We unnecessarily put good people through a public spectacle and damaged the reputation of some people who legitimately had nothing to do with this,” Schiepisi said.

In December, the committee released an interim report saying it couldn’t determine if Christie was or wasn’t involved. The report also notes that because “several critical witnesses” have not testified, the record of the incident “remains incomplete and leaves several important questions unanswered.”

With the indictment filed, Weinberg said, she may want to recall some of those witnesses “who weren’t as cooperative before.”