Gov. Chris Christie’s top aide, who told a legislative committee she wasn’t sure when she deleted text messages she exchanged with him about the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, is stepping down.
Christie announced Wednesday that chief of staff Regina Egea will be replaced by Amy Cradic, his deputy chief of staff for policy.
Egea led Christie’s staff during his failed presidential bid in 2015, and was his top aide when he and legislative leaders announced their support for expanding gambling in northern New Jersey. Christie’s second term ends in January 2018.
On Wednesday, he said she was “deeply valued” and an “essential” part of his administration.
“Regina has provided tremendous leadership in helping manage and direct a lean and effective government and in implementing my reform priorities on behalf of the taxpayers of this state,” Christie said
Egea was the head of Christie’s unit overseeing authorities, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, when the bridge’s lanes were closed in September 2013. She told lawmakers probing the closure in 2014 that she texted Christie her thoughts on testimony on the closure, but later deleted the messages.
Christie said at the time he had no recollection of the messages, but phone records show that he and Egea exchanged some during the hearing, indicating that Christie also deleted the messages, according to a report. The contents of the messages have not been recovered.
Two former Christie allies, Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly, are accused of purposely closing two of three access lanes to the bridge in Fort Lee to create traffic jams as retribution for Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie for re-election. Traffic around the bridge, which is the busiest in the country, was gridlocked for hours on four consecutive days.
Christie, a Republican, has repeatedly denied any prior knowledge of the scheme, and a taxpayer-funded report he commissioned absolved him of wrongdoing. Egea was not charged with wrongdoing.
Baroni and Kelly have pleaded not guilty to charges including wire fraud and civil rights deprivation. Former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein pleaded guilty.
Egea has served as chief of staff since November 2014, when Kevin O’Dowd resigned to take a top post at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
Christie had earlier named her chief of staff in 2013 when he picked O’Dowd to be attorney general, but O’Dowd’s nomination did not move forward, and Egea remained as Christie’s director of the authorities unit.
She told lawmakers in 2014 that she was inconsistent with which texts she kept and which she deleted. She said she believes she dumped the messages before the story erupted into a major distraction for Christie but couldn’t be sure.
Some of the messages, she said, complimented a Port Authority employee for his “professionalism” during testimony in late 2013.