Christie chief of staff subpoenaed in span scandal

Kevin O'Dowd, N.J. Gov. Christie's chief of staff
Kevin O'Dowd, N.J. Gov. Christie's chief of staff
Posted: June 06, 2014

The legislative panel probing the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge announced Wednesday that it had subpoenaed Gov. Christie's chief of staff to testify on Monday.

Kevin O'Dowd "is in a unique position to provide insight into what happened under his watch as chief of staff to the governor," the committee co-chairs, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen) and Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D., Middlesex), said in a statement.

O'Dowd, whom Christie nominated in December to serve as attorney general, told the governor's lawyers that he had no role in the September lane closures.

O'Dowd received communications in the months afterward that were related to the brewing controversy, which he discounted as politically motivated, according to a summary of his interview with Christie's lawyers.

In December, O'Dowd said, he was instructed by Christie to determine whether Bridget Anne Kelly, then a deputy chief of staff to Christie, played a role in the lane closures. Kelly denied any knowledge of the lane closures beforehand, according to O'Dowd's interview summary.

"The documents we've received to date and testimony we've heard to date pose serious questions about who knew what when. We need answers to those questions in order to obtain understanding on how this abuse of power could originate in the governor's office," Wisniewski said in an interview.

He described a "very curious set of circumstances" regarding the administration's response to the lane closures: "No one appears to have known about it. No one appears to have given Bridget Kelly authorization. After it happened, no one believed it happened."

O'Dowd told Christie's lawyers that he directed Kelly to review her text messages and e-mails for evidence related to the lane closures that snarled traffic in Fort Lee over four days. In January, Christie fired Kelly over the revelation that she had sent an Aug. 13 e-mail to a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official, David Wildstein, that read, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

The legislative panel has issued about 30 subpoenas for documents related to the lane closures. Four people also have testified before the panel under subpoena in recent weeks, including Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak, former Christie administration aide Christina Renna, former Christie campaign staffer Matt Mowers, and Port Authority commissioner William Schuber.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark, which is also investigating the matter, requested that the committee postpone the testimony of Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority. Foye had been scheduled to testify Tuesday.

Wisniewski said he was not aware of similar circumstances with regard to O'Dowd.

None of the witnesses has revealed a motive for the lane closures. A report by Christie's lawyers pinned blame for the closures on Kelly and Wildstein and said the plot appeared to have targeted the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee. He did not endorse Christie's reelection. The report did not identify a motive.



Inquirer staff writer Andrew Seidman contributed to this article.

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