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Christie chief of staff tells Bridgegate panel he had ‘no prior knowledge’ of lane closures

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Kevin O'Dowd and Gov. Chris Christie.
Kevin O'Dowd and Gov. Chris Christie. - (NJBIZ file photo)

Kevin O’Dowd, Gov. Chris Christie’s chief of staff, told the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation Monday that he “had no prior knowledge of, or played no role in” the decision to close lanes at the George Washington Bridge last September as a means of alleged political retribution.

Christie nominated O’Dowd last year for the position of attorney general but a confirmation hearing has since been held up as questions regarding the scandal continue to circulate.

On Monday, O’Dowd answered questions not only about any involvement he may have had in the lane closures, but also spoke on the role Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, in the matter. Kelly was fired by Christie in January following the release of emails and messages she sent to former Port Authority executive David Wildstein, resigned in the wake of the growing scandal, indicating that it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

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O’Dowd said Christie had first asked him in December to talk to Kelly about any role she might have had in the lane closures, a notion which she immediately and adamantly denied. Later, Kelly then went on to show O’Dowd an email from Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich regarding the incident, roughly three months after it was initially sent.

Still, O’Dowd testified that at the time, he had no reason to believe Kelly had any serious involvement in the matter, especially given that she was someone he had “worked with and known for four years and someone who I thought very highly of.”

At this point, O’Dowd is the highest-ranking member of the Christie administration to testify before the investigative panel. The committee has previously received testimony from spokesperson Michael Drewniak, ex-director of intergovernmental affairs Christina Genovese Renna and former campaign staffer Matthew Mowers.

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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