Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign manager was kept informed of complaints over traffic backups near the George Washington Bridge even while lanes remained blocked, according to emails released Monday about the apparent political payback plot orchestrated by the governor’s aides.
More emails involving two-time Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien were made public in a legal filing by the state legislative panel investigating the closures. They are the latest documents to be turned over to a judge considering Stepien’s request to quash a subpoena from the panel looking into the deliberate attempts to create gridlock in Fort Lee.
One email shows Christie’s top appointee at the bridge agency, Bill Baroni, looping in Stepien on a letter of complaint on the fourth full day of the September lane closures.
“Thanks,” Stepien replied after being forwarded the letter from Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, where traffic backed up for hours, stalling school buses and emergency vehicles.
In another exchange, Stepien sends a complimentary message after Baroni told a legislative panel that the lane closures were part of a traffic study, a story that has since been discredited.
“I know it’s not a fun topic … but you did great,” Stepien wrote in late November, a few weeks after Christie easily won re-election.
Stepien’s lawyer says his client has done nothing wrong.
“The documents released today … thoroughly discredit the committee’s desperate attempt to paint Mr. Stepien as a central figure in the lane closure controversy,” said the lawyer, Kevin Marino.
Stepien and fired Christie aide Bridget Kelly want the subpoenas thrown out based on their constitutional right against self-incrimination.
The emails released Monday start on Sept. 12, while the lanes were still closed, and include exchanges on Jan. 8, the day before Christie was forced to retract an earlier statement that his staff had no involvement in the lane closings.
Stepien, a valued political adviser who was said to be in line to run a possible Christie presidential campaign, was hired Monday by Michigan political consulting firm FLS Connect. Company President Sheila Berkley says the firm is excited to have someone with his experience.