One day after a lengthy internal review "cleared" New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie from involvement in the Bridgegate scandal that shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge for four days last September, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a Christie appointee, tendered his resignation on Friday.
David Samson, a lawyer who served as New Jersey attorney general from 2002 to 2003 before being appointed by Christie as Port Authority chairman in 2010, has been considering retiring from his post for as long as a year, Christie said in a press conference, but his departure in the midst of the Bridgegate scandal raises questions about his involvement in it.
Christie’s internal review found that former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and another Christie appointee to the Port Authority, David Wildstein, whose title was director of interstate capital projects, acted alone in closing several lanes on the George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey to New York, and causing crippling traffic in Fort Lee. According to the Star-Ledger of Newark, Samson was “intimately involved” in the day-to-day operations of the Port Authority, but he was not mentioned once in the 360-page internal review, though several of his emails criticizing the decision to reopen closed lanes have surfaced. Two more independent reviews are forthcoming.
The Star-Ledger also found that Samson awarded Port Authority contracts worth $16 million to Paterson, N.J.-based Railroad Construction Company. A part-owner in the company, Alsonso Daloisio, is being represented by Samson’s law firm, Wolff and Samson, in a civil case.
Samson also has implied ties to the concurrent Christie administration scandal involving Hoboken, N.J., Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Zimmer alleged that Christie’s camp held federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds hostage from storm-torn Hoboken unless she supported a redevelopment project by the Rockefeller Group on Hoboken’s north end. Wolff and Samson had represented the Rockefeller Group for years before cutting ties with the firm a week after Zimmer came forward, the Star-Ledger reported.
After Hurricane Sandy flooded some 80 percent of Hoboken in October 2012, MSNBC reports, Zimmer requested $127 million in aid to help the city recover. Instead, she received only $342,000 in recovery grants – less than 1 percent of the aid sought. Only $142,000 of the money came from Christie’s budget of $250 million in statewide aid, while an additional $200,000 came from other aid funds.
When Zimmer reached out to Christie’s camp desperate for more aid money, Christie sent Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to speak at a ShopRite in Hoboken about rebuilding the city. While there, Zimmer says, Guadagno pulled her aside and told her that if she wanted more money in hurricane relief, she should go forward with a long-stalled plan for the Rockefeller Group to redevelop three blocks in Hoboken’s north end into an office complex.
“At the end of a big tour of ShopRite and meeting, she pulls me aside, with no one else around, and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project,” Zimmer wrote in her diary, which she shared with MSNBC. “[Guadagno continued,] It is very important to the governor. The word is that you are against it, and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right – these things should not be connected – but they are, she says, and if you tell anyone, I will deny it.'”
Guadagno emphatically denies Zimmer's story.
Zimmer claims that four days later, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, Richard Constable, told her, “If you move [the Rockefeller Group redevelopment] forward, the money would start flowing to you.”