TRENTON – One thing that emerges in the Port Authority emails released Friday by the Assembly Transportation Committee is a picture of an agency apparently as concerned with who leaked information to the press as it was with addressing the mess created by the lane closures in Fort Lee in early September.
One email, dated Sept. 18, from PA Chairman David Samson to Scott Rechler of RXR Realty, discusses briefing notes for press availability and talks of Patrick Foye, the top N.Y. appointee to the Authority, being the “leak’’ for a Wall Street Journal story about the lane closures Sept. 9-13.
After Rechler emailed to Samson that “Let’s not escalate this unless there is clear evidence that he truly spoke to the WSJ,’’ Samson replied: “I just read it and it confirms evidence of Foye’s being the leak, stirring up trouble-this is yet another example of a story, we’ve seen it before, where he distances himself from an issue in the press and rides in on a white horse to save the day (if you need prior examples I will provide)-in this case he’s playing in traffic, made a big mistake.”
And a bit earlier Samson had said of Foye “More evidence of reckless counter-productive behavior.’’
The exchange is illustrative because it bolsters what some witnesses said last year to the Transportation Committee of a culture of secrecy at the Authority.
Two officials of the Authority testified to Assemblyman John Wisniewski’s Transportation panel that ex-official David Wildstein had informed them of the impending lane closures that would occur Sept. 9 and warned them not to discuss it with anyone.
When pressed by lawmakers did they fear being fired if they talked to anyone, and whether there was a culture of fear at the Authority, the witnesses said they just followed orders.
And in a Sept. 13 email, Baroni said to Foye: “Pat we need to discuss prior to any communications.”
To which Foye emailed back: “Bill we are going to fix this fiasco.’’
Foye testified to the N.J. lawmakers that he was greatly concerned when he discovered what had happened, feared laws may have been broken, and ordered the lanes reopened.
Foye makes it clear in his emails how he feels about what happened.
“I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for; I intend to learn how PA process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged to say nothing of the credibility of this agency,” he said in a Sept. 13 email.
In an exchange on Sept. 13, Baroni emailed to Foye: “I am on way to office to discuss. There can be no public discourse.’’
To which Foye replied: “Bill, that’s precisely the problem. There has been no public discourse on this.”