New committee, same subpoenas.
The state Legislature’s joint Select Committee on Investigations will re-issue the same 20 subpoenas to Gov. Chris Christie’s top advisors and Port Authority brass that its Assembly predecessor did just more than a week ago, officials said.
The 12-member, bi-cameral committee probing the September lane closures of the George Washington bridge met for the first time just more than an hour after it was created by unanimous votes of both houses.
Chaired by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, and Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, the committee passed without Republican support – all four GOP members voted against the measure, which several had said gives the Democratic co-chairs too much authority and autonomy.
Following the 8-4 vote, Wisniewski said the committee would be re-issuing the same subpoenas as a precautionary measure, since the Assembly committee that had originally issued them no longer exists. No additional subpoenas would be issued, he said, and the date to have documents delivered to the committee would remain Feb. 3.
“We will follow the trail wherever it leads us,’’ Wisniewski said. “Right now, we don’t know where that is. We know we have an email that orders lanes closed on the George Washington bridge that shouldn’t have been ordered. We have our work cut out for us.’’
Wisniewski also said its premature to talk about whether the committee will be calling anyone from Christie’s office for questioning and he would not speculate on where the committee would probe once the documents from the first round of subpoenas come back next month.
Republicans on the committee made an attempt to have the panel’s operating resolution altered, offering a motion to amend it to curb the co-chair’s authority, among other measures. It was blocked by the majority Democrats.
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, following the meeting said that the GOP was merely trying to ensure checks and balances were in place.
“We just want to make sure that this doesn’t go off-track,’’ Bramnick said. “We want to make sure this is a fair hearing.’’
Earlier, Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, a member of the select committee, said she would favor a third, Republican, co-chair to “prove that this process is more than a witch hunt.’’
Bramnick would not say whether he agreed with Handlin’s assessment.
The Select Committee has set no date for a future meeting, pending the results of the subpoenas.