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Christie aides canceled meetings with mayor who wouldn't endorse gov

At the inauguration of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gives his regards to the mayor's wife and children. Fulop is unmarried and has no kids.

Four of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's Cabinet officials abruptly cancelled meetings with Steve Fulop, the newly elected mayor of Jersey City, on the same day Fulop's political aides said the mayor would not endorse Christie's bid for re-election, according to documents obtained by NBC News.

The cancellations, all of which took place within an hour of each other, were cited by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Democrat who chairs the state panel investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures, as evidence that Christie and his top aides had "essentially an enemies list," and that Fulop, the mayor of the state's second largest city, was on it for refusing to endorse Christie in last fall’s gubernatorial race.

A "Mayor's Day" conference for Fulop to meet Christie's cabinet members on July 23, 2013 had been arranged by Bridget Kelly, Christie's then deputy chief of staff, and facilitated by Bill Stepien, Christie's campaign manager, according to emails and text messages obtained by NBC News under an Open Records law request.

"I know the Gov is sending quite a contingent of his Cabinet up to you on the 23rd," Stepien wrote in a July 12 text message, just 12 days after Christie spoke at Fulop's inauguration. Fulop, a Democrat, had unseated incumbent Democrat Jerramiah Healy in a May 14 election.

The "Mayor's Day" conference was due to include meetings for Fulop with five top New Jersey officials, including the state Treasurer, the deputy commissioner of transportation and the heads of three other major departments, Community Affairs, Office Recovery and Rebuilding, and Economic Development. Bill Baroni, one of Christie’s top appointees to the Port Authority, which oversees the George Washington Bridge, was also due to attend.

But at 4:53 p.m. on July 18, Fulop's scheduler, Nancy Warlikowski, emailed the mayor saying, "within the past hour, I have received phone calls" from four of the officials telling her they were cancelling due to "scheduling conflicts" and they "offered no alternative dates." The next day, July 19, Baroni cancelled his meeting. The following Monday, Michelle Brown, the chief of New Jersey's Economic Development Authority, and the only one left on the schedule for "Mayor's Day," also cancelled.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Steven Fulop at his campaign head quarters on Friday, March 15, 2013, in Jersey City, N.J.

Fulop's spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said in the days leading up to the cancellations there were "multiple conversations among Fulop allies to Christie allies stating no endorsement would be forthcoming prior to and on July 18th."

Fulop directed Warlikowski to "try and reschedule. See what they say," on July 26, one email shows. He also pressed Baroni for a meeting in an Aug. 1 email. But when he heard nothing back he expressed his suspicions that political payback might be at work.

"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 in an Aug. 18 email to Baroni. "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."

There is no indication from the newly released documents that Baroni ever responded prior to his resignation from the Port Authority in December.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives a news conference in Trenton on Jan. 9, 2014.

"Certainly, that's not the way the governor should be treating the mayor of one of our largest cities," said Assemblyman Wisniewski. "You look at this in a totality, you're looking at essentially an enemies list."

One of the emails about the George Washington Bridge lane closures released last week alluded to the unhappiness of Christie aides with Fulop. After Baroni got an email reporting that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had left an “urgent” phone message complaining about the traffic jams at the bridge, Christee staffer Kelly emailed another Christee appointee, David Wildstein, asking “Did he call him back?”—apparently asking whether Baroni had returned Sokolich’s call.  Wildstein replied: “Radio silence. His name comes right after Mayor Fulop.” 

In a statement, Christie spokesman Colin Reed said that "Mayor Fulop's words and actions must be viewed through the lens of partisan politics and his attempt to advance his own personal agenda. ... That doesn't change the fact that Governor Christie and everyone in his administration will continue working on behalf of Jersey City and all its residents." 

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