A Port Authority (PA) police officer and childhood friend of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is said to have supervised the now-infamous George Washington Bridge closure which was said to be a revenge tactic by Christie aimed at the bridge’s Jersey-side township, Fort Lee.
According to payroll records the MSNBC researched from 1998, the officer, Lieutenant Thomas “Chip” Michaels, is said by media outlets to have been hired by the PA Police Department that same year.
In mid-September, 2013, the bridge experienced a three-day closure into Fort Lee that resulted in huge traffic delays and prevented police and ambulance responses to emergencies. Later reports stated that there were no injuries or deaths as a direct result of the incident.
The closure was said by many political insiders to have been in retaliation for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s failure to endorse the Republican Christie for reelection.
In a January story in the New York Daily News, it was reported that a former PA official, David Wildstein, wrote a three-page letter detailing Christie’s alleged involvement and responsibility for the remarkable bridge closure and its resultant gridlock.
When the story broke, the finger-pointing was already in progress.
Christie claimed to have nothing to do with the incident, and then back-pedaled to say he knew nothing about it until after the three-day ordeal was over. Then came the released e-mails and texts that showed not only Christie’s knowledge of the affair but of what appeared to be close supervision of it as it developed.
According to the NY Daily News, the texts were sent between Michaels and Wildstein as well as Wildstein and the bridges’s general manager, Robert Durando.
According to the MSNBC story, written by Steve Kornacki and Brian Murphy, Wildstein was a Chris Christie appointee and may have personally toured the area with Michaels while they supervised the seemingly unwarranted bridge closing.
Owing to the long relationship among Christie, Wildstein and Michaels, PA Executive Director Pat Foye has demanded an investigation into Michaels’ involvement in the incident. It has been reported by a number of agencies that the three grew up in the same township of Livingston, New Jersey.
It has also been implied by MSNBC that Michaels’ brother, Jeffrey Michaels, may be involved too.
Jeffrey Michaels is a lobbyist and “governmental affairs agent” for Optimus Partners L.L.C. out of Trenton, New Jersey. The firm was started in 2009, according to Philly.com, when Michaels partnered with Philip Norcross, a brother of a senator said to be one of Jersey’s most powerful power brokers among the Democrats. In 2011, Jeffrey Michaels reported an annual salary for the year 2010 of $294,813 to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. In the same financial disclosure report, Norcross reported an annual salary of $201,287.
Optimus Partners is stated by numerous sources to be one of the state’s most powerful Republican lobbying groups.
As the bridge fallout continues regarding who supervised the closure and why, more friends of Chris Christie are sure to be squeezed out.
Opinion By Randall Fleming
Follow Randall Fleming on Twitter: #BreweryObserver