Christie Appoints an Ombudsman

The office will be replaced by the Office of Community and Constituent Relations, which the governor’s office said would address the needs of the public “in a nonpartisan fashion.”

Mr. Christie named Patrick E. Hobbs, the dean of Seton Hall Law School, as the ombudsman for the Office of the Governor.

The office had been led by two close aides Mr. Christie has cut loose or fired: Bill Stepien, who served as his two-time campaign manager and longtime political adviser, and Bridget Anne Kelly, who took Mr. Stepien’s job as deputy chief of staff when he moved to Mr. Christie’s re-election campaign.

Ms. Kelly sent the email that blew open the scandal in January, calling for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” the borough that was gridlocked when the lanes were closed for four days in September.

Mr. Christie, a Republican who before the scandal was considered a leading contender for the White House in 2016, has tried to isolate the bridge scandal as the work of Ms. Kelly and David Wildstein, an official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who instructed bridge workers to close the lanes after receiving her email.

But memos of the interviews with Mr. Christie’s lawyers show that staff members understood they were to use the office in the service of politics.

Aides recalled how Ms. Kelly said she had to check with “Bridgewater” — where the governor had his campaign headquarters — before making decisions.

One former aide said that the office would receive “mandatory directives” from the campaign to ignore calls from mayors who had fallen out of favor.

Another aide said he was instructed “not to bend over backwards” for Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, after she declined to endorse the governor. (Mayor Zimmer has since accused the Christie administration of holding money for Hurricane Sandy recovery hostage in exchange for her support of a development the governor supported.)

Mr. Stepien, Mr. Wildstein, and Ms. Kelly, along with several others, declined to speak to the governor’s lawyers.

Mr. Hobbs will be in charge of ensuring that employees receive “robust” training in ethics, and will shape a new office of the chief ethics officer for the governor and create a system for employees to report concerns about wrongdoing.

Two additional investigations of the lane closings — by the United States attorney’s office and by a special legislative committee — are continuing.

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