Transcript: Former Port Authority executive David Wildstein’s appearance before the NJ Assembly transportation committee on Jan. 9, 2014 – Part I

Part I: Partial transcript of the New Jersey Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities committee hearing on the George Washington Bridge lane closures. David Wildstein, who was appointed to the Port Authority by Gov. Chris Christie, was subpoenaed to testify on Jan. 9, 2014.

NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D):
…This is the Assembly Transportation, Independent Authorities committee and we are here today to hear testimony from the former Director of Interstate Capital Projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and to that extent the committee calls Mr. David Wildstein to testify…

I understand Mr. Zegas that you have some opening remarks that you’d like to make or some opening matters you’d like to address with the committee…

Alan Zegas, attorney representing David Wildstein:
Thank you for the opportunity. A short while ago, we were before the Honorable Mary Jacobson on a motion to quash the subpoena that was served upon Mr. Wildstein to testify today.

The judge denied the motion to quash in finding that in two of the issues were not judicable, meaning that she was referring them – not referring them – but suggesting that they were appropriately belong before this committee than at this time in court…

…[Our] brief raises three separate issues which I would ask the committee to please take under its own consideration and make a separate finding as to whether the subpoena issued by the committee is indeed valid.

I point out that the first issue was whether the subpoena was appropriately authorized because it had not been signed by the committee but by somebody of your league in its stead.

Second issue that we raised before the court is whether the authority that was given to this committee by the Assembly to conduct an investigation authorized this committee to look into the alleged closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge or whether the Assembly Resolution 61 and 91 were instead tailored for this committee to look solely at whether toll and fare increases that had been imposed by the Port Authority were justified. The Assembly Resolution in its statement very specifically details that the authority given to this committee is to look into the $21.5 million capital financing of the Port Authority, to as well look into the capital planning. revenue production and expenses, salaries paid to employees, matters of that ilk. And we submit that the authority given to this committee did not include power for this committee to investigate the lane closures. So on that ground also, we would object to the subpoena.

You know and then there’s a third issue contained in the papers which I would simply submit…and you may review them.

NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D):
Thank you very much. Just so that I understand your request for relief or your request for this committee to consider the two issues you’ve raised for a decision by this committee is whether or not the subpoena’s valid?

Alan Zegas, attorney representing David Wildstein:
That’s correct.

NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D):
And whether or not the inquiry exceeds the scope of the subpoena.

Alan Zegas, attorney representing David Wildstein:
That’s correct.

NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D):
And you’ve reviewed the subpoena. You’ve seen the subpoena?

Alan Zegas, attorney representing David Wildstein:
I have and those issues were dealt with in court this morning along with the third issue that the judge also felt more properly belonged before this committee or before the Assembly. You know, I’ll leave it at that.

NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D):
You know, on the two issues that you raised, just as the chair, the subpoena’s valid.

You’re a practicing lawyer as I am. There are many day in your practice and mine in which there are documents that are issued under your name that somebody on your staff signs. That’s an accepted practice under New Jersey law and I think the judge as much said that in the colloquy before the court today. And clearly under that basis, in my opinion as chair – and I’d certainly have the committee decide this – that the subpoena is valid…

In terms of the scope of the inquiry by the committee, the resolutions number 61 and 91 by the General Assembly authorizes the committee to look into the operations and finance of the Port Authority. It then give a laundry list of things included but not limited to and you mentioned some of those. And so I would also opine that the scope of the inquiry is appropriate inasmuch as the fact that under that same authority you provided documents responsive to our documents subpoena and there was no objection raised as to the scope of the committee’s authority to request documents.

Alan Zegas, attorney representing David Wildstein:
I have two comments with respect to that Mr. Chairman.

One is that at the time these subpoenas were served, Mr. Wildstein was still employed by the Port Authority. The Port Authority was turning over documents that he did not even have access to because he no longer worked at the Authority, and he was voluntarily cooperating with this committee.

Subsequently, he parted company with the Port Authority. A subpoena was then served for his presence here today and I would submit that the nature of that subpoena requiring his presence differs from the subpoena for the production of documents.

And the judge also found that there were distinctions between a subpoena for the production of documents and for testimony.

But I understand what your ruling is or what your opinion is and we will abide by that.

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