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Analysis: Fishman Demurral, Bridgegate Break Gives Christie An Opening

Egea, who rose to a top executive position at AT&T before joining the Christie administration, said she accepted Baroni’s explanation that the lane closures that snarled traffic in Fort Lee for four days were part of a legitimate traffic study and that Foye’s memo ordering the lane closures revoked represented unwarranted political interference by New York officials with a New Jersey traffic issue.

She said she accepted Foye’s representation at the end of the September 13 memo that he would investigate the issue, but other than occasionally asking Baroni about the status of Foye’s investigation, she never followed up, despite increasing scrutiny of the issue by New Jersey and New York newspapers that fall and demands for an explanation by Weinberg and other legislators.

Egea acknowledged that she and her deputy, Nicole Crifo, hand-edited Baroni’s opening statement to the Assembly Transportation Committee -- a draft of which was driven to Trenton in a Port Authority car and then back to New York because Baroni evidently feared that if he emailed the document, someone might leak it to the press. Egea said Port Authority Chairman David Samson called her to ask her to edit Baroni’s statement.

She acknowledged that she “crisped” Baroni’s opening statement by editing out most of the background he had inserted on the three access lanes to the George Washington Bridge coming out of Fort Lee, including new information that the lanes had been in existence since they had been requested a decade earlier by Fort Lee Mayor Jack Alter, a former Bergen County freeholder.

Egea bought into Baroni’s assertion that the use of cones to divide the three GWB access lanes from Fort Lee from the nine lanes coming in from Route 95 was unfair because only “75 percent of the tollbooths were being used for 95 percent of the traffic.” That assumption was based upon Baroni’s analyis showing that “approximately 4.5 percent of all EZPass customers actually show a Fort Lee address,” a line she handwrote into Baroni’s testimony.

The Morning Rush

Egea listened to Foye’s December 9 testimony under oath before the Assembly Transportation Committee and was surprised to hear him report that the three Fort Lee lanes handled 25 percent to 26 percent of morning and afternoon rush-hour bridge traffic.

She did not report that fact to Christie, but she did text him to tell him that she found testimony by Port Authority officials Cedric Fulton and Robert Durando to be credible. She added that Fulton’s testimony that traffic studies are usually done through mathematical modeling, rather than traffic diversions, raised questions in her mind about Baroni’s judgment, but not his credibility.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester) questioned Egea about why she had not turned over the text she sent to Christie to the committee, and she acknowledged that she had deleted the text sometime after December 9, when she sent it, but before January 8, when the controversial Kelly email turned Bridgegate into a national story.

Moriarty asked Egea’s lawyer, Michael Martinez, a partner with the New York City law firm of Mayer Brown who once served as Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney under Christie, if Egea would agree to have her cellphone scanned to attempt to retrieve the missing text. Moriarty said he would consult with Randy Mastro’s Gibbons Dunn & Crutcher law firm, which Christie retained to conduct an internal inquiry into Bridgegate for the governor’s office, before deciding whether to comply.

Wisniewski said it was “curious that the one text she had with the governor no longer exists” and added that he was troubled that it did not turn up when her phone was originally imaged by lawyers representing the governor’s office. He suggested that Egea “deliberately deleted” the text, and that “it was improper” for her to do so.

Asked why the Egea text to Christie did not show up in the records subpoenaed from Christie and the governor’s office itself, Wisniewski said, “That’s a good question.”

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