TRENTON, N.J., May 6 (UPI) -- A former staffer with a New Jersey office aiding local officials suggested in testimony Tuesday that the agency sometimes got involved in helping Gov. Chris Christie's re-election bid.
Christine Renna, the first Christie administration official to testify before a legislative committee investigating the "Bridgegate" scandal, said the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs was "amazingly non-partisan" during her time there. But she also said staffers were encouraged to work as volunteers when they were off the clock to get endorsements from officials they knew, and were sometimes ordered to cut off ties to local officials with no explanation.
Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, headed the office while Renna was on the staff. Kelly was tied to the scandal by an email to David Wildstein, a Christie ally at the Port of New York and New Jersey, saying it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Fort Lee, at the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, endured four days of traffic jams when the Port Authority closed most access lanes to the bridge in September. The legislature is investigating whether the closings were political payback against the city's mayor.
Renna said she did not know about the lane closings at the time. She testified that Kelly asked her to get rid of some evidence about them.
Christie set up the intergovernmental affairs office when he became governor to help municipal officials navigate state government. Some observers say it helped build his support among Democratic officeholders and to win a resounding victory last November.
But critics say the governor also engaged in acts of vengeance. After "Bridgegate" exploded, Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, which was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, said she was told aid would be held up unless she backed a development project sought by a Christie ally.