It’s hard to imagine that a personnel change at the top will make a fundamental difference at Port Authority if the culture of abuse of its authority and resources, directed from the inner offices of the New Jersey governor, continues. There’s scant evidence it will as long as the Port Authority is structured as it is, with great discretionary powers of both governors, and with one governor playing political games with an Authority budget larger than that of ten states.
Tag Archive: David Samson
UPDATE: Commission clears Dudley Burdge of wrongdoing, and acknowledges it’s looking into the David Samson case. Burdge expressed anger, saying he suspected it was the Christie administration’s way of forcing CWA, his union and one Christie has made a politicslenemy, to bleed money and resources on his defense. He’s probably right.
NJ Working Families, CWA and other social justice and pro-labor activists are putting pressure on the NJ State Ethics Commission to use their powers to investigate David Samson. This morning, they showed up to press that case in person.
What the Commission focused on today, instead of the obvious issues of ethics involved in the unfolding Christie administration abuse of power questions, is the five-year-old case of CWA’s Dudley Burdge, a case which has already been dismissed by an Administrative Law Judge at a hearing early this year. CWA’s John Connelly tells Blue Jersey the story.
To the right, Dudley Burdge this morning, holding a sign reminding commissioners he didn’t close a bridge, or make millions for his law firm. He just made a phone call.
“In the six weeks since we filed ethics charges against David Samson our case has only grown stronger, and Samson’s resignation was necessary but not sufficient to repair this breach of the public trust,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families. “The State Ethics Commission is supposed to be a nonpartisan watchdog. It’s time they act like it.”
– Analilia Mejia, NJ Working Families
NJ Working Families is inviting you to show up with them Tuesday at the NJ Ethics Commission to tell them to focus on ethics issues arising from the interrelated Christie administration scandals. The group filed a complaint last month against David Samson, whose law firm and clients benefitted enormously from the time the Christie confidante was given the job of Port Authority chair, which he’s since resigned. They complain the Ethics panel will instead address a 5 year old case against a union rep, Dudley Burdge; persecution of union workers, they say, instead of tackling the corruption at the top.
What: Demonstration at State Ethics Commission
Where: 28 West State Street, Trenton
When: Tuesday, April 22nd at 9:30am
“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
This commonly quoted line from Walter Scott could serve as the epigram on a front page of this whodunit tale. Through Part IV of our series we have written about 11 key characters caught up in the web of Bridgegate. The biggest, of course, is Gov. Christie whose reputation has been severely damaged but whose involvement and ultimate fate remain unclear. Five high-ranking characters have resigned or been fired – Wildstein, Kelly, Stepien, Baroni, and Samson. There are other individuals lurking in the background who may take on importance.
In this installment, Part IV, below the fold we look at the “Press Spokesman from Hell,” the “Holder of the Keys,” and of course no crime procedural would omit the “bumbling or duplicitous police officers.”
As with any good whodunit there is often a twist. A judge rules that two defendants who have invoked the federal constitution’s 5th Amendment right against incriminating themselves can not be compelled by an investigative committee to provide documents that might incriminate them. No worries. The tale continues. With an email there is often a copy to another party who is not a target who might produce the damaging document. The investigative committee is and has been receiving documents from numerous sources and is now requesting files from the Mastro Report.
More important, when an individual, such as Bridget Kelly, has put in motion something illegal, she is already subject to being indicted. Her recourse is to blab to the prosecutors to receive immunity. The nasty Mastro Report should provide her added incentive. The legislators retain their role of finding out how and why this happened and then initiating remedial legislation.
Neither Bill Stepien nor Bridget Kelly (whom we wrote about in Part II of this series), who Judge Jacobson absolved from having to incriminate themselves, have escaped the arm of the law. There could be an appeal or revised more narrowly focused subpoenas. While we await their fate, there are other larger than life characters in this whodunit beyond the fold: the “failed general,” the “once fair-haired legislator,” the “Would be Supreme Court Justice member” and “yet another lawyer.” In Part III they are all lawyers who may be in trouble with the law and now have their own lawyers.
The investigation of Bridgegate/Hoboken/Port Authority/Christie’s Executive Office has all the elements of a great mystery story, except it’s not fiction. It fits into the genre of procedural crime where it is believed there might be criminal activity which could include corruption at the top. The FBI and prosecutors use subpoenas, issue search warrants, interrogate witnesses, gather evidence, invoke a grand jury, grant immunity to a few, and then indict and take the case to court. In some stories the suspect at the very top although tarnished is not indicted. There is satisfaction when most guilty parties are meted out punishment, and there is a lingering suspicion that anyone who escaped justice will later suffer consequences.
Recent news tells us that this procedural is well underway in New Jersey. ABC News reported that Christie Spokesperson Michael Drewniak, whose lawyer says he is not a target, answered questions before the Newark Grand jury. Another source, Main Justice, says that Christie Port Authority appointee David Wildstein, was “camped at the U. S. Attorney’s office” last week. Also Main Justice states, “Charles McKenna, Chief Counsel to Christie, met secretly in mid-January with investigators working for U. S. Attorney Fishman.” Other news sources have reported that the FBI have questioned people connected with Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and former Campaign Manager Bill Stepien.
Ohers entwined in this mystery story include Christie Port Authority appointees David Samson (former Chair), Bill Baroni (former Deputy Director) and Philip Kwon (P. A. Legal Department and former Christie nominee to the Supreme Court), and Christie Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd.
Although it is not yet clear what exactly the crimes may be, this tale has a large cast of interesting and diverse characters – some who definitely were involved in the lane closings and others who may have known early about it, masterminded it or covered it up. The story is complex as it may also involve extortion in Hoboken, illegal conflicts of interest on the Port Authority Board, and unlawful use of federal Sandy funds.
In forthcoming posts there will be an examination of the individual cast members and what we have learned about them from the Legislative Select Committee documents, the Mastro Report and other sources. Some with significant information can be granted immunity from the U. S. Attorney to testify. The legislative committee is also in a position to develop new information. It becomes increasingly likely that this procedural will continue to unfold, and lead us closer to “who done it” and why. At the conclusion this story might well become a book – a fascinating and tawdry tale.
UPDATE: Christie has just concluded a press conference – his first in 78 days – about an hour long, announcing the Samson resignation at the top. It’s characteristic of Christie to respond with scorn or annoyance when he hears questions he doesn’t like. He heard plenty of them over the last hour or so – questioning the legitimacy of Mastro’s report, why the Governor didn’t talk to Bridget Kelly on her way out (for which he blamed the press) and when and how he knew what happened. His response was primarily to start attacking and holding culpable the media itself and insulting individual reporters attempting to ask questions. A complete front of righteous indignation, ginned up out of nowhere. – REE
Yesterday, Christie’s lawyer, in the rollout of his elaborate but incomplete 360-page ‘exoneration’ of the Governor, cleared Port Authority chair David Samson of wrongdoing in the sudden local lane closures off the George Washington Bridge last September.
And today, Samson has resigned. Effective immediately.
Christie is now answering press questions for the first time in more than two months, since his rambling 2-hour news conference hours after the Bridgegate scandal he scornfully denied any knowledge of was tracked right into his executive office.
Gov. Christie has suffered a severe blow in the past few months. His Executive Office and other close colleagues are under investigation. He has gone down in both national and NJ polls. Questions about Bridgegate, Sandy, and the NY/NJ Port Authority have hounded him. Following his initial two-hour press conference in January, he has refused to meet with the press and has tried to convey the appearance of conducting business as usual.
We now have learned from the NY Times that the administration’s internal review performed by lawyer Randy Mastro of what went wrong in Bridgegate will be made public shortly. “According to people with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry, it has uncovered no evidence that the governor was involved in the plotting or directing of the lane closings.” Nobody really expected that Christie’s lawyer would say the governor was guilty of something. The article is an excellent read, and although many will be skeptical, let’s accept the conclusion for now at face value.
So where does this leave Christie? In the catbird seat or a rough rumble seat? More likely the latter. However, several points at the moment benefit Christie:
For the moment the clouds appear to have lifted for Christie, but there is a storm brewing ahead, which we will explore in Part II.
Last Fall, Loretta Weinberg went to Port Authority commission meetings with questions for those commissioners – some of whom she voted for in the Senate. She got nothing but silence back. Finally, less than a month ago, PA Chair David Samson issued a lukewarm “apology:” “I cannot allow this agency to be mischaracterized by the actions of a few individuals when the day-to-day work of so many, including this board, is so important.”
Too much has happened, and despite the agency’s failures of transparency, and the apparent legitimacy of accusations that some of the Port Authority’s leaders have allowed it to be used for political retribution and profit-making. And just like at Gov. Christie’s “town halls,” you’re going to start seeing people show up at Port Authority commissioners meetings asking the tough questions about what went down. Wednesday, the Port Authority that doesn’t like to answer questions will be met by people demanding its chairman resign.
What: Protest outside of Port Authority Board Meeting
Where: 2 Montgomery Street, Jersey City
When: Wednesday March 19th at noon
Can you go? NJ Working Families wants to know
UPDATE: Well that was fast. Not too many minutes after news broke that a NY United States Attorney issued a Samson-related subpoena, we get news that that’s now been called off.
According to a report published a few minutes ago at the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors at the office of Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, have subpoenaed records from the Port Authority related to the business interests of its chairman, David Samson. WSJ:
According to people familiar with the matter, Manhattan federal prosecutors were specifically interested in any conflicts between Mr. Samson’s private business interests and his actions as chairman of the sprawling bi-state authority, which oversees Hudson River crossings into New York City, airports, the PATH rail system and the World Trade Center complex.
Samson is already under scrutiny of New Jersey federal prosecutors following the sudden closure by the Port Authority of local lanes at the GWB, and in connection with Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claim that LG Kim Guadagno delivered a threat to her that Sandy funds would be withheld to hard-hit Hoboken unless she approved a real-estate development for a Wolff & Samson client. The firm, where Samson is the founding partner, had no immediate response. Samson’s attorney, Michael Chertoff, who was George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security, would not comment on any investigation.