TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Another top official has resigned amid an escalating probe into ramp closures to the George Washington Bridge.
As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Friday, Gov. Chris Christie announced he accepted Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive deputy director Bill Baroni’s resignation, effective immediately. Democrats had called for Baroni to step down over the scandal.
Christie said he was already planning to replace Baroni as he headed into his second term, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
“This was a change I was going to make anyway in the normal course of the transition,” Christie said. “Bill said this has become such a distraction that he didn’t want to cause any more problems, so he knew he was going, so he went today.
“Four years of the day-to-day management of the Port Authority was enough,” the governor added.
A state Assembly panel has been holding hearings into the closing that took place leading to the GWB in September. Baroni said they were closed for a traffic study.
Democrats claimed they were closed to punish Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing the Republican governor’s re-election campaign.
However, the governor refused to link the closure to the endorsement.
“The answer is absolutely, unequivocally not,” said Christie on Friday. “A mistake was made.”
“I don’t like when mistakes are made,” the governor added.
Port Authority Executive Director Pay Foye said he didn’t know anything about the traffic study. Christie went on the defensive
“I don’t have any recollection of even having met the mayor of Fort Lee,” he said.
The scandal threatens not only the start of Christie’s second term, but also his 2016 presidential aspirations. National Democrats have jumped on what they call “bridge-gate, but the governor told Kramer that doesn’t surprise him one bit.
“The national Democrats will make an issue about everything about me. Get used to the new world, everybody. You know we’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy,” Christie said.
Last week, another top Christie representative at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, resigned. He cited the lane closures for his decision.
Bridge officials told the state Assembly’s Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee that Wildstein told them not to tell Fort Lee officials or Foye.
Two of three approach lanes were closed for three days, but were reopened due to congestion.
Christie announced Deborah Gramiccioni would replace Baroni at the bi-state agency. As deputy chief of staff she has already changed things at the Port Authority.
“She identified, reduced and eliminated many of the perks at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for their employees that were not available to the general public,” Christie said.
However, if Christie thinks the personnel change will immediately eliminate the political toll the issue is taking on his administration, he has another thing coming, Kramer reported, because the Democratic chairman of the Assembly Transportation Panel, John Wisniewski, said the investigation into what happened in Fort Lee will continue.
He said he has issued seven subpoenas, Kramer reported.
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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)