TRENTON, N.J. - An aide to Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that she did not alert any of her bosses when she learned about the closure of lanes leading up to the George Washington Bridge in part because she believed someone else was trying to get to the bottom of it.
Regina Egea, Christie's incoming chief of staff, testified before a legislative panel that is investigating the closures, which appear to have been carried out for political retribution and have become a major distraction for Christie, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender.
She was forwarded an email last September from Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, ordering that the lanes be reopened and suggesting that their closure may have broken the law.
Egea said the authority's deputy director, Christie appointee Bill Baroni, called her, explained the situation and then forwarded the email from Foye.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a co-chairman of the committee, asked her if she thought closing lanes was something the Port Authority might be involved with. She said it was.
"That they would do traffic studies, absolutely, and that they world look for ways to enhance the customer experience," said Egea, who said she normally would not get involved with what she called operational issues at the independent and semi-independent authorities she oversees such as the Port Authority, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and New Jersey Transit.
She said she understood the accusations from Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as part of a dispute between the two states' contingents, something that was common.
She also said she did not feel a need to investigate further because Foye was reviewing what happened.
Egea testified that during a December legislative hearing about the lane closures - like others in the administration, she called them a "realignment" - she texted Christie about testimony from Port Authority officials, including complimenting the professionalism of one of them.
But she said she deleted the messages, and said she was inconsistent about which messages she saved and which she did not.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat and co-chair of the legislative panel, asked whether she purged those messages before or after the story erupted into a major distraction.
"I don't know," Egea said. "I believe it was before, but I don't know."
Egea is the fifth member of Christie's administration to testify before the legislative panel, but she may be the last for a while.
She was one of 13 people on a list of potential witnesses the committee compiled last month. Wisniewski said the U.S. attorney's office, which is also probing what happened, advised the lawmakers' lawyer not to call about half the people on the list, at least for now.
No one else has been sent a subpoena to appear and no other committee hearings are scheduled.
Before Thursday's hearing, Republicans lawmakers reiterated their concerns that the legislative probe is focused on politics rather than fact-finding and that it's not accomplishing anything.
"It appears that the U.S. attorney is trying to turn off the John Wisniewski show," Republican Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick said. "But John Wisniewski doesn't want to turn off the lights."