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Governor Backs Off Pension Threat, Dismisses Media Focus On Bridgegate

Specifically, investigators will want to know whether O’Dowd and McKenna talked to:

  • Port Authority Chairman David Samson, Christie’s 2009 campaign counsel who is in the middle of both the Bridgegate and Hoboken scandals, and who tried to get the Port Authority’s vice chairman, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to keep Foye from making his allegations public.

  • Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, who prepped with Philip Kwon, whom Christie sent over to the Port Authority as deputy counsel after his state Supreme Court nomination was rejected by the Democratic Senate, for four or five days before insisting to the Assembly Transportation Committee at a hearing in late November that the lane closures had been part of a legitimate traffic study. Baroni resigned in December.

  • David Wildstein, Christie’s political enforcer at the Port Authority, who ordered the lane closures at Kelly’s direction, is currently seeking immunity in exchange for his testimony, and alleged Friday that “evidence” exists showing that Christie knew of the lane closures while they were still in effect.

  • Regina Egea, the director of the Authorities Unit in the governor’s office, who received the Foye email from Baroni without a cover note on September 13, a few hours after Foye wrote it.

  • Kelly, who served under O’Dowd as deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, replacing Stepien when he went to run Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign.

Taking the Fifth

Kelly yesterday followed Stepien’s announcement Friday in declaring through her lawyer that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure in refusing to provide documents subpoenaed by the Joint Select Committee on Investigations co-chaired by Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen).

Meanwhile, one of Kelly’s top aides, Christina Genovese Renna, who served as director of intergovernmental affairs, became the fifth current or former Christie appointee subpoenaed by the Joint Select Committee on Investigations to resign or be fired.

“I left my position in the governor’s office effective Friday, January 31,” Renna announced in a statement released by her lawyer, Henry E. Klingeman. “This reflects a decision I have been considering since shortly after the election. I have spent almost four years working hard for a governor I continue to respect and admire. The transition from term one to term two is a natural time to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.”

Investigators, however, will want to know whether Renna had knowledge of the political motivations for the George Washington Bridge lane closures, which were allegedly ordered by Kelly to punish Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich for his failure to endorse Christie for reelection -- as Sokolich seemed to indicate in his email to Kelly and Stepien asking if he was being punished.

Emails submitted by Wildstein in response to an earlier subpoena showed Renna apologizing to Kelly on September 12 because another staffer in the governor’s office, identified only as “Evan,” inadvertently took a call from Sokolich, whose calls evidently were intentionally being ignored during the September 9-13 shutdown by Kelly’s department, which is responsible for communications and outreach to local government officials.

“The mayor told Evan that he has no idea why Port Authority decided to do this, but there is a feeling in town that it is government retribution for something,” Renna wrote to Kelly. “He simply can’t understand why that would be the case however, because he has always been so supportive of the governor. Sokolich explained that the Council wants to organize a press conference with picketers at the foot of the bridge. The Mayor feels he is about to lose control of the situation and that he looks like a ‘f----ing idiot.’”

In yet another example of the Christie administration’s maze of entanglements, Renna is married to Michael Renna, who was a senior vice president of South Jersey Industries, whose subsidiary, South Jersey Gas, unsuccessfully sought approval from the Pinelands Commission to build a 22-mile pipeline through the preserve to connect with its BL England plant in December. The project became a subject of controversy when environmentalists charged that the governor’s office improperly went to state Ethics Commission to get an environmentalist member of the panel barred from voting on dubious grounds.

Unlike Kelly, Christina Renna will be cooperating with investigators, her lawyer said. “She intends to comply with the subpoena, but the committee’s counsel has given her an extension of time to do so,” Klingeman responded by email yesterday.

Renna is not alone in requesting extra time from the legislative committee to comply with its subpoenas, which were due yesterday.

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