TRENTON – “Don’t let David Wildstein be the fall guy. You deserve better.’’
Assemblyman Thomas Giblin said that directly to Wildstein today, a person he said he has known for 25 years, and someone he holds in high regard.
But Wildstein, after pleading the Fifth Amendment dozens of times before the Transportation Committee Thursday, appeared somber as his lawyer ushered him through a crush of reporters to the exitway.
“Shame on you!’’ shouted someone from the audience as Wildstein, the since-resigned Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official, made as hasty a retreat as he could from a packed committee room that included a who’s who of N.J. politics: Assembly Majority and Minority leaders Lou Greenwald and Jon Bramnick and last year’s Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Milly Silva.
Though Giblin talked fondly of Wildstein as someone who took his political and journalistic roles seriously – he is a former PolitickerNJ editor – other lawmakers were not so kind.
“What happened is very disturbing,’’ said Marlene Caride, (D-36), Ridgefield, who gave Wildstein credit at least for showing up and not providing the “flip” answers Bill Baroni did when he appeared voluntarily before the committee last year. Baroni also has resigned from the Authority.
The consternation was on both sides of the aisle. The vote to hold Wildstein in contempt was unanimous.
Brian Rumpf, (R-9), Forked River, said, “We are outraged as well” over what the documents revealed. “We share the outrage expressed by the governor this morning.”
And David Wolfe, (R-10), Brick said that the subpoenaed documents revealed a situation in Fort Lee whose extent many lawmakers were unaware of. But Wildstein’s silence “leaves the committee where we were before,’’ he said.
Chair John Wisniewski said he was perplexed that Wildstein would turn over 900 pages of documents that were subpoenaed but then refuse to speak about them.
His attorney, Alan Zegas, told the panel that the two situations were not comparable. With so many current and potential investigations involved, his advice to Wildstein was to plead the Fifth in order to avoid saying something a prosecutor in the future could use against him.
Which brought it all back to Giblin’s pleading to Wildstein to answer questions.
“I know you better than that,’’ he told Wildstein. “I encourage you to come back and give us answers and candor.”
Wildstein’s attorney suggested to the committee at the conclusion that if his client was afforded immunity it might make a difference. But Wisniewski did not appear inclined to make such an offer.