Two N.J. special legislative panels OK’d for Bridgegate probe

Amid questions of whether the panels will truly be bipartisan, New Jersey lawmakers have voted to create special legislative committees in the Senate and Assembly to continue the investigation of the George Washington Bridge scandal.

While the vote was unanimous, some members of the Republican minority say they’re concerned about how the inquiry will proceed.

Assemblyman Christopher J. Brown questioned the expense of having two separate committee investigations and two outside counsels.

“What is the retainer? What’s the fee that’s been done? As a small-businessman I have to look at my expenses. Every household has to look at their expenses,” said Brown, R-Burlington. “We can’t be any different in this situation.”

There’s money in the Legislature’s budget to pay for the special counsel, assured Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is chairing the new investigatory committee in that chamber.

“If the choice here is to not do the investigation because we’re worried about the cost or to do the investigation, we need to get these answers because we need to restore public trust, and we need to make sure that it can’t happen again,” he said.

Republicans wonder just how much of a role they’ll have in the inquiry. While Wisniewski said it’s not possible to have public deliberations about an investigation, he vowed that Republicans on the panel will be advised and consulted.

Also Thursday, 10 more subpoenas were issued to 17 individuals and three organizations referenced in previous emails and text messages concerning what’s being called “Bridgegate.”

September traffic-lane closures near the George Washington Bridge were apparently ordered by a Christie aide as political payback and caused massive traffic backups for four days.

Christie fired that aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, for lying about her role in the scandal; the governor has repeatedly and adamantly denied knowing anything about it.

His administration Thursday hired the New York-based law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to “to assist with the internal review announced by Gov. Christie last week and to further cooperate with the U.S. Attorney inquiry.”

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