New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held a press conference Friday during which he addressed allegations surrounding his administration’s role in last September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge and announced the resignation of one of his top appointees at the agency that oversees the bridge.
Christie held the press conference — his first since January — the day after lawyers hired by his office released a report reviewing the accusations. Based on recommendations in that report, Christie said David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, would resign.
Christie said Samson had made the decision to resign because he “completely supports” the reforms to the agency recommended in the report and thought they would be best implemented under “new leadership.”
“In line with that belief, David tendered his resignation this afternoon, effective immediately,” Christie said.
Samson is the third Christie appointee to resign from the Port Authority. In December, Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and the agency’s director of interstate capital projects, Bill Baroni, both resigned amid mounting questions about the closures, which caused days of gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J.
Some Democrats have alleged that the closures were an attempt by Christie’s allies to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse the governor’s re-election bid.
At the press conference, Christie said Samson decided to resign on his own. He also said Samson had contemplated leaving the agency prior to the scandal surrounding the closures.
“David’s been talking to me for the better part of a year about moving on,” Christie said. “I asked him as governor, ‘Please stay.'”
Christie said that he believed the report had shown Samson played no role in the closures.
“His role was not central in any of these things,” Christie said.
The report found that Wildstein and Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, were the only officials close to the governor who “knowingly participated” in the closures.
Kelly was fired by Christie in January.
Samson is a central figure in another allegation facing the administration. Hoboken, N.J., mayor Dawn Zimmer claimed several officials threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy relief funds from her city unless she approved a real-estate project backed by developers represented by a law firm founded by Samson. The report concluded Zimmer’s allegations were “demonstrably false.”
Since those accusations, federal prosecutors have been reportedly investigating Samson’s business dealings. A special committee established by the New Jersey Legislature is investigating the lane closures.
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