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Fort Lee mayor takes more measured tone after meeting with Christie

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 5:01 AM EST, Fri January 10, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • On Wednesday, Mayor Mark Sokolich said "traffic Armageddon" put his town in harm's way
  • The Fort Lee mayor said Gov. Chris Christie shouldn't bother saying sorry to him
  • Now he says he accepts Christie's apology and takes him at his word

(CNN) -- What a difference a day makes.

On Wednesday, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich seemed outraged after learning that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's appointees had apparently targeted his town as part of a political vendetta, orchestrating traffic jams because he hadn't endorsed the governor.

"I'm actually rooting that the highest elected official in the state of New Jersey isn't involved in this, but I will tell you, I'm beginning to question my judgment," he said, saying that the traffic snarls caused by lane closures on the George Washington Bridge "put my town in harm's way."

Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer whether he would accept a phone call apologizing from Christie, Sokolich said the governor shouldn't bother.

Christie: I fired Kelly because she lied
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is embroiled in unfolding controversies over alleged political payback. The primary scandal involves suggestions key aides and supporters orchestrated traffic gridlock around the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last year to punish that town's mayor for not endorsing Christie's reelection. A separate controversy involves a federal watchdog's review of whether Christie improperly used Superstorm Sandy funds to produce tourism ads starring him and his family. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is embroiled in unfolding controversies over alleged political payback. The primary scandal involves suggestions key aides and supporters orchestrated traffic gridlock around the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last year to punish that town's mayor for not endorsing Christie's reelection. A separate controversy involves a federal watchdog's review of whether Christie improperly used Superstorm Sandy funds to produce tourism ads starring him and his family.
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"Do me a favor, don't call me, but call the families who were waiting three, four times longer for emergency services when their loved ones were having heart palpitations or when their loved ones had extreme chest pains and were waiting for our ambulance corps to arrive," he said. "Do me a favor, call and apologize to thousands of families whose kids were late for the first day of school and the three or four days that ensued thereafter. Call our police department. Call our administrators in the school system that had to deal with this. Call the folks that had to deal with traffic Armageddon that week. Don't call me."

Even as Christie publicly apologized at a press conference Thursday, Sokolich said he didn't want the governor to come to his town before an investigation into the matter was complete.

"It would appear that there is still some untold chapters here," he said, "and we wouldn't want him to expend gas unnecessarily."

Sokolich said he welcomed the apology, but didn't need to hear it in person -- yet.

"To do it now in light of what's transpired over the last 24 hours, it's just going to cause more chaos in Fort Lee. We don't need it at this point. And I've got to tell you, I think he ought to wait for this investigation to conclude, otherwise we're going to be spending a lot of gas coming up and down the turnpike."

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But later in the day Thursday, after meeting with Christie, he struck a more measured tone.

"I'm glad he came. I take him for his word, which is he had nothing to do with it. And I said this once, I said this 100 times. We in Fort Lee are not rooting for facts to, you know, come about and surface that would suggest in some shape or form that he was involved in it. We take him for his word."

Sokolich described his meeting with Christie as "productive" and "cordial."

"I accepted his apology. Yes I did. .... When I was also speaking to you folks while the governor was conducting his press conference, I had indicated that, you know, maybe it wouldn't be productive (for him) to come up now, and I explained to the governor that wasn't to be disrespectful. It was just to -- wouldn't it make more sense to do this once the investigation was concluded? " Sokolich said. "The governor respectfully insisted, and we certainly would welcome any governor, and especially our governor .... with open arms, as we did."

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