Tag Archive: Bill Baroni

More than 1,000 pages of FOIA records-request documents on Bill Baroni released by Port Authority

Today, more than 1,000 pages of documents related to Bill Baroni’s time working for the Port Authority of New York & NJ were released to the public. The docs, obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records request to the PA by progressive PAC American Bridge show meetings with senior advisors to Gov. Chris Christie and expense account records and tickets related to Baroni’s travel in 2013. American Bridge lists NJ and Christie first in a list of issues they’re monitoring.

Review the full 1,000-plus pages of FOIA-requested docs here.

There’s no overt mention in Baroni’s calendar of the GWB scheme. But among items that jump out:  

NJ’s Whodunit Procedural: Part IV

“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.”  

NJ’s Whodunit Procedural: Part III

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.

Work of the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation Should Continue

The legislature’s joint GWB investigative committee is scheduled to begin meeting shortly in Committee Room 11, for the first time in several weeks. You can LISTEN LIVE here (currently silent, they’re in executive session). And we will live tweet as much as we can @BlueJersey.

Among the items they will discuss is whether the work they’re doing will continue, or not. Yesterday, Steve Sweeney told Star Ledger that it should  “walk away” if Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien win in court and don’t have to comply with subpoenas. Then he walked that back hours later, in what amounts to a complete about-face.

The absurdity of the Senate President making a statement like that – especially when the majority leader in his own house is a co-chair – suggests an undercurrent of political concerns at work that may extend past Sweeney. Some of the people running the Statehouse have big dreams and concern themselves at least as much with their own political futures as their work for the public. Some people wannabe Governor, and some people have alliances cozy with Christie. Or maybe some people are jealous that Wiz & Weinberg are on national teevee a lot. I have no idea. And frankly, I don’t give a damn. When possible abuse of power is concerned , I expect good government instincts to prevail, if there are personal political instincts also at play. If that’s what’s going on. The scale of what is at question here demands it.  I don’t get a vote – maybe you do – but I think the panel’s work should continue. Yes, Sen. Sweeney, even if Judge Mary Jacobson rules for Stepien and Kelly. Below, are my reasons. Maybe you have some to add.  

Note to Christie: Those who live by the accountability sword will die by the accountability sword.

Promoted by Rosi

From the moment he was sworn in four years ago, Gov. Christie has been on a personal jihad against public education, unions and teachers. Labeling us “greedy” and “selfish”, and our apartheid schools in high-poverty districts as “failure factories”, he’s done everything possible to brainwash the general public into thinking our schools are overrun with bad teachers who must be held accountable.

He succeeded in getting a new evaluation system passed (my district uses Danielson)* that now tracks every pencil stroke of a student against their teacher. No stone is left unturned as administrators evaluate everything from how a teacher greets her students at the door, to whether students are able to solve their own social problems. And forget about expecting to be found ‘highly effective’ (a score of 4 on a 1-4 scale). Every teacher in New Jersey has been spoon-fed the mantra, “live in 3; vacation in 4”. To be highly effective, students pretty much have to teach themselves and solve their own problems. So, if you are a highly effective teacher, you essentially teach yourself into obsolescence. And yea, that’s totally reasonable, especially with kindergarteners.

Where is Christie: In the Catbird Seat or Rough Rumble Seat? Part II

Update 2:45pm: Gov. Christie has announced that Port Authority Chair David Samson has tendered his resignation – an odd note in the midst of Christie’s effort to resurrect himself and one that does not bode well for Samson.

In Part I we looked at why for the moment the sky might seem clearer for Gov. Christie. Now in Part II we look at why there are looming storm clouds.

The just released Report of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, concerning its investigation on behalf of the office of the Governor of New Jersey, says, “Governor Christie did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign the lanes.” (“Realign” sounds so much more benign than “close.”) This statement does not preclude knowledge during and after the closing. The lawyers interviewed some 70 people (none under oath), but did not interview Wildstein, Kelly, Stepien, Baroni nor Samson, all of whom had some knowledge and involvement with the lane closings. Without such interviews this report is neither comprehensive nor definitive and reeks of a public relations stunt. Statements like “The Governor does not recall …” further damage the report’s validity.    

He continues to be the target of negative publicity. The press, cartoonists, magazines, and late-night comics have all ridiculed him. Protests from the public which were almost nonexistent at his events in the past have grown in frequency and breadth. Likewise legislators are more critical of him and less desirous to collaborate. The Republicans thought he did little to help their re-election and rebelled when he tried to dictate a change in the Senate Minority Leadership. The Democrats have long disagreed with many of his policies and now see him as Bridgegate/Sandy-weakened and a lame duck. TV and print press have greeted the new report with skepticism. His Teflon coat has weakened and his Sandy fleece is in near-tatters. It is apparent in both national and NJ polls.

It is clear that something wrong happened with the closing of the Fort Lee bridge lanes in September. Regardless of whether or not he ordered the action or watched over its implementation, he bears responsibility. He hired and promoted individuals instrumental in what happened – a failure on his part. It is a poor reflection of his management skills if he knew nothing about they were doing. If what happened is deemed a crime and he tried to cover up the crime he is in even more serious trouble. There is no way that this will end well for him.  

After 17 months it has become increasingly clear that he mismanaged the Sandy relief and reconstruction effort. The number of individuals still without a home, tenants without an apartment, frustrated by paperwork, angry at a non-responsive bureaucracy, and discriminated against by race is increasingly apparent. HGI, hired to to oversee a large part of the Sandy effort, proved so inept it had to be let go with a golden parachute of $60 million. Claims in Belleville and Hoboken that he used federal Sandy funding to extort support for his re-election or to benefit a developer/donor are potentially indictable offenses.

Christie today is trumpeting the report he ordered and paid for. In the meantime, the Legislative Select Committee continues its effort to provide a full accounting of what happened. U. S. Attorney Paul Fishman is looking into several problem areas. State and federal laws may well have been violated. The Alliance of Working Families has brought to the State Ethics Commission a complaint against Port Authority Chair David Samson whose efforts have benefitted Christie politically and Wolff Samson financially.

He may enjoy a short-lived respite but he remains in a rough rumble seat.  

Bill Baroni lands a law job

Let’s review:

Bill Baroni, who has since resigned in disgrace, was the Deputy Exec. Director of the Post Authority of NY & NJ. Highest-ranking Jersey bureaucrat. Salary: about $300k. Appointed by Christie. Hired David Wildstein A/K/A the insidery “Wally Edge” who founded Politicker NJ and used his own PA job for shenanigans he clued Baroni in on. Baroni, a lawyer who used to be a senator in the NJ Legislature. Baroni lied to that same legislature, trying to sell them the fabrication that 5 days of commuter chaos and first-responder confusion was  due to a “traffic study”. There were charts. Visual aids. And it was a show; he looked really earnest, lying. He knew it was bull, because was involved in the tomfoolery that wasn’t a “traffic study”. Baroni and Wildstein were players in the Christie scheme to raise tolls on Hudson River bridges (like GWB) and tunnels to help generate a “slush fund”. And that was used to finance big construction projects that fattened the law firm of the agency’s Chair – another player close to Christie – David Samson. Baroni, who documents show scheming with Wildstein to prevent Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman John Wisniewski from asking questions at a public meeting of the Port Authority Commissioners that they were entitled to attend.

Baroni is still employable. And he just landed well, getting a law job at Hill, Wallack.

We don’t know everything that happened in the GWB scandal. We do know Baroni lied to lawmakers. He’s complied with subpoenas. He is not disbarred. He’s entitled to find work. But it’s galling to watch a former legislator who we now know abused his power on a public salary to go from one plum position to another, safe (so far) and sound. Good luck to him.

Let the investigations continue.

Bridgegate: Was It To Justify the Toll Hikes?

This is cross posted from my blog at Epoch Times. I originally posted it January 17.  I came up with this theory the day before Steve Kornacki interviewed Dawn Zimmer and Samson’s antics took up all the oxygen in the room.  But it is still the theory I believe was at the root of Bridgegate and based on Shawn Boburg’s article today I stand by this theory.

The reasons for the illegal lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in the Bridgegate scandal are still a mystery. Although Mayor Sokolich was blamed by Port Authority police officers, and Sen Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg was running for re-election and Christie would love nothing more than a Senate without her in it, and Steve Kornacki’s real estate theory was intriguing, we still have no proof.

Here is my theory, although not very Hollywood, it is logical and explains the involvement of so many people, including the Commissioners. The illegal closures may have simply been done to justify the toll increases that the Port Authority had rushed through and to distract from a scathing Congressional report  that came out the week of the closures. It also makes Christie’s choice of attorney more interesting. Christie chose the same attorney representing the Port Authority in the toll hike lawsuit. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/20…

Lautenberg’s Report

On September 14th an excellent article written by Shawn Boburg appeared discussing a Congressional GAO report about the Port Authority. The subject was the impending toll hike scheduled to take effect after the election..

It appeared, Senator Lautenberg, who had passed away in June 2013 reached out from beyond the grave, to admonish Bill Baroni, and help NJ commuters one last time. Sen Lautenberg had been outraged by the increasing tolls to cross the Hudson and asked for a report to the Senate Commerce Committee about the Port Authority. That report was released September 13, 2013. The very day the traffic was relieved by the actions of Patrick Foye. http://www.northjersey.com/new…

P.A. Toll Hikes: Soaking the Public and Glorifying the Governor

You probably remember the broad outline of deviousness in the infamous NY/NJ Port Authority toll hikes in December 2012. Blue Jersey diarists wrote numerous blogs indicating that the initial increases proposed were beyond belief, that the “Public Hearings” were all held on one day at inconvenient hours and at inaccessible locations, and that trade unions had been orchestrated to support the hikes and cheer at Public hearings.  

But did you know that the two instigators who directed the  plot were the now familiar P. A. Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and his henchman David Wildstein, both of whom were appointed by Gov. Christie and have since lost their jobs? That the initial announced increases were deliberately high so that Govs. Christie and Cuomo could later appear as saviors when they insisted on marginal reductions. That the plot was implemented in a conference room on the 15th floor of the P.  A. NYC headquarters where only a few individuals knew what was happening?

Both The Star-Ledger and the Record broke similar stories this morning. As Shawn Boburg writes in the Record: “Governor Christie’s top two executives at the Port Authority led a secretive campaign to quickly push through controversial toll hikes on the Hudson River bridges and tunnels by drowning out criticism, limiting public input and portraying the governors of New York and New Jersey as fiscal hawks who reined in an out-of-control agency.”

As Steve Strunsky writes in the Ledger, it began with “a jaw-dropping proposal to immediately raise bridge and tunnel tolls by $4 for E-ZPass subscribers and $7 for cash customers. It was a sleight of hand that began with a campaign-style operation… The thing is, a former Port Authority official told The Star-Ledger, “It was all bullshit’… ‘to make the governors look good.'”

This detailed revelation is another sickening exposé of how two Christie appointees sought to soak the public and glorify their governor. You can learn more about how they orchestrated the plan, a secretive dinner between the two governors, Maggie Moran’s involvement, and how the findings by The Record cast doubt on claims that the governors had no prior knowledge of the toll-hike proposal. As newspaper boys years ago used to scream on the streets, “Read all about it.”  

What’s Happening Today Mon. 01/27/2014

Around and around it goes, and where it will stop nobody knows. In roulette the ball will eventually fall into one of 38 pockets. In Bridgegate and Hoboken Hold Up, there may be more possibilitiies. Some people probably have a better idea than others as to where the ball will stop. Here are some of them:  

Gov. Christie spent two hours before the press protesting his innocence, and since then has uttered not a word on Bridgegate. However, he would have to be a dunce if he hasn’t figured out by now most of what happened and where it’s likely to end. Nor has he spoken out on Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claim, but he should be able to remember whether he asked Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to pressure the mayor. Zimmer was quite convincing in what she alleged.

David Wildstein, the bad boy from Christie’s school years, ordered the Fort Lee lanes closed, abruptly resigned from the Port Authority, provided  incriminating documents under subpoena, and took the 5th amendment before a legislative committee. Now he appears willing to tell more if he is granted immunity. He does know more and could probably point the finger at others and explain why this dumb plan was implemented.

Bridget Anne Kelly while Deputy Chief of Staff issued the famous memo to Wildstein (“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”) which set the wheels in motion. For that she was immediately fired when Christie says he read the emails. If she was acting on orders from someone else she might be particularly unhappy, unwilling to take all the blame and eager to reveal who told her to initiate the plan and why. The Governor’s office says her communications are subject to Executive privilege, but she used her personal e-mail in some cases and may provide some interesting reading.

Bill Baroni was once a well-regarded Republican legislator who went against Christie’s wishes and voted in a Senate committee for marriage equality during an earlier ill-fated effort. As the top Christie appointee to the Port Authority he appeared mean and foolish, maligning the late Sen. Lautenberg, trying to hold information back from the public, and insisting that the lanes were closed for a traffic study. He was there (until he abruptly resigned) and has a tale to tell.

Former Campaign Manager Bill Stepien, Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd, and Chief Counsel Charles McKenna are all under subpoena, were a pay grade above Kelly, only one degree away from Christie, and in many cases  giving out orders on behalf of the governor.

Go below the fold for others who might know better where the ball will stop, and for today’s scheduled activities which include the governor out and about but not willing to meet the press.