At least six residents in New Jersey are bringing a class-action lawsuit against high-ranking government officials in connection with the simmering scandal over bridge traffic that gridlocked a north Jersey town in apparent political retaliation against an opponent of Gov. Chris Christie.
The suit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, attorney Rosemarie Arnold said, and targets key players in the saga, including Christie, his former aide Bridget Kelly, and two former Port Authority officials who resigned in December over the controversy, the Associated Press reports.
In a long news conference Thursday, Christie said he was “embarrassed and humiliated” after documents surfaced showing Kelly, then his deputy chief of staff, furtively plotting last year with Christie allies and transportation officials to create traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., after the town’s mayor declined to back Christie’s reelection bid. That eventually led to lanes being closed on the George Washington Bridge, the busiest in America, effectively turning parts of Fort Lee into a parking lot for four days.
The final number of plaintiffs in the class-action suit has not yet been determined, but according to the filing, possible plaintiffs include “any and all individuals and business owners” who were negatively affected by the massive four-day traffic jam in Fort Lee last year. Arnold stressed that the traffic snarl was not merely a standard inconvenience in Fort Lee, but a manufactured public health hazard.
Christie, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, apologized Thursday, fired Kelly, and said he knew nothing of his aides’ actions.
Meanwhile, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who had expressed outrage after emails surfaced implicating the governor’s office and told CNN Christie shouldn’t even bother contacting him to apologize, struck a less combative tone Thursday after meeting with Christie.
“I’m glad he came. I take him for his word, which is he had nothing to do with it,” Sokolich said. “And I said this once, I said this 100 times. We in Fort Lee are not rooting for facts to, you know, come about and surface that would suggest in some shape or form that he was involved in it. We take him for his word.”