January 13th, 2014
03:57 PM ET
7 months ago

Jersey City mayor suggests meetings were canceled over politics

(CNN) – A series of e-mails obtained by CNN show that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop – a Democrat who considered endorsing Gov. Chris Christie for reelection but declined to do so – questioned whether important meetings with state officials were canceled because of his political decision.

Having been informed of meeting cancellations simultaneously after he chose not to endorse Christie in 2013, Fulop wrote in an e-mail to a senior Port Authority official appointed by the governor expressing his frustration.

Read the e-mails

“I am not sure if it is a coincidence that your office cancelled a meeting several weeks back that seemed to be simultaneous to other political conversations elsewhere that were happening,” Fulop wrote
Bill Baroni, then the Port Authority’s deputy executive director, on August 18.

“Prior to that you were always very responsive and I sincerely hope the two issues are not related as it wouldn’t be in the PA (Port Authority), Jersey City, or the residents of the state’s best interest,” Fulop continued.

Meetings with various state officials, including Baroni, had been set up for Fulop on July 23. However, several of those officials canceled on July 18 without reason, and Baroni canceled his the next day, according to e-mails from Fulop’s aide to the mayor.

As it turns out, Fulop decided not to endorse Christie on or around July 18.

“Within the past hour, I have received phone calls from four top state officials,” an aide to Fulop e-mailed him on July 18. “They quoted scheduling conflicts and offered no alternative dates.”

The new e-mails involving Fulop that were obtained by CNN raise questions about whether Christie officials sought to punish him politically – or at least send a message - for his non-endorsement. Similar questions are front-and-center in controversy over the sudden closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, which triggered gridlock in Fort Lee in September.

Other e-mails released last week by Democratic state legislators investigating the traffic snarl over several days around the world’s busiest bridge suggest that Christie appointees orchestrated the traffic mess in an alleged act of political retribution against the Fort Lee mayor.

Christie taking a hit in the polls?

The bridge scandal has rocked Christie’s administration and threatens to damage any larger political ambitions the governor may harbor, including a potential run for president in 2016, political analysts say.

In a statement on Monday, Fulop expressed frustration the meetings were never held.

“The e-mails that were requested speak for themselves. Our administration has sought to operate in a professional and cooperative manner with the Christie administration. Whether cabinet officials meetings, Port Authority lease negotiations or reforming our municipal pension system; it is my hope that state decisions be based on the merits,” Fulop said in his statement.

Bill Stepien, who managed both successful Christie campaigns for governor, texted Fulop on May 15 saying , “Let me know if we can help set up any meetings for you in Trenton as you enter transition.” Fulop had been elected mayor on that day.

Christie announced last week that he was severing ties with Stepien, who was in line to become the next chairman of the New Jersey Republican Party, over the scandal fallout, and he also fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly after e-mails suggested that she had a hand in setting the lane closures in motion.

Kelly was also involved in helping to set up some of the meetings with key state officials early on, before Fulop decided not to endorse Christie.

She sent a list of prospective participants and times to Fulop on June 27.

Baroni left his job at the Port Authority in December over the lane-closure controversy.

Last week during his news conference about the bridge controversy, Christie was asked about the meeting cancellations.

"I don't know about specific meetings or what is going on. But certainly you know I will look into all of those things," he said, adding the state had been working with Fulop and Jersey City to fund some projects.

Then he said, "Have I at times been angry at Mayor Fulop and disagreed with him. Sure I have. But I also spoke at his swearing in, at his invitation. So political relationships in this state go up and down."

On Monday, Christie’s office reiterated that the administration continues to work with Jersey City on “numerous issues,” including the recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

“Mayor Fulop’s words and actions must be viewed through the lens of partisan politics and his attempt to advance his own personal agenda,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “Fulop’s relationship over time with both the governor and Democrats in the legislature has been inconsistent as he has made clear his future political aspirations.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported the existence of the Fulop e-mails.

CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    This may be true, but I would seriously caution the Dems to very carefully avoid all appearances of "pig pile on Governor Soprano!!!" It does nothing but damage the credibility of the key issues/scandals we should be most concerned about.

    January 13, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Christie is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    January 13, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    It all comes out in the wash...

    January 13, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    This assassination attempt by the Democrats is very, very, transparent.........everyone knows it is entirely political, to try and destroy his chances in 2016......................only because he is now the front runner, in the latest polls.

    January 13, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "This assassination attempt by the Democrats is very, very, transparent.........everyone knows it is entirely political"

    Yep, because Bridgette Kelly and David Wildstein and the rest of the crew at the Port Authority who are shown in those emails to be enacting a politically motivated stunt, well, they were clearly being paid by the Dems and were doing it all in order to help the Dems manufacture a fake scandal. Obviously. So transparent. Top republican aids and political appointees are always running around looking for ways to give the Dems scandal accusations against GOP governors.

    January 13, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "It all comes out in the wash..."

    Even with blue dresses. As Bill O'Reilly says: "Tide goes in, stains go out"....or something.

    January 13, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. Ol' Yeller

    This assassination attempt by the Democrats is very, very, transparent.........

    If you happen to be on psychotropics and didn't take them for several days.... maybe.
    If you were not prescribed psychotropic medications and took 24 of your Uncle Larry's pills... maybe.
    If you got blackout drunk on Mad Dog 20/20... maybe.
    If you are a complete partisan RWNJ without the parameters of reality to ground you.... Absolutely.

    January 13, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |