TRENTON, NJ—It was announced today that Governor Christie’s Chief of Staff, Kevin O’Dowd, will step down from his position and in turn begin work at Cooper University’s Health Center.
O’Dowd, a former New Brunswick resident, served in the role since 2012, and is leaving to become the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Office at Cooper Hospital.
His wife, Mary O’Dowd, will continue to serve as Christie’s Health Commissioner. The couple re-located from downtown New Brunswick to Princeton in 2011.
In December 2013, Christie had nominated Kevin O’Dowd to be New Jersey’s next Attorney General. Under that position, he would have earned a yearly salary of $141,000, the same salary he earned as Christie’s right-hand man.
Several legislators raised concerns over O’Dowd’s perceived involvement in the Bridgegate scandal, which forced Christie to put O’Dowd’s Attorney General nomination on the backburner.
In June of this year, O’Dowd finally testified in front of the NJ Legislature’s committee investigating the Christie administration’s purposeful traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge.
There, O’Dowd held his ground against sharp questioning for close to seven hours, raising hopes that Christie would re-nominate him to be the Attorney General, the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official.
But he still would have needed the consent of a majority of members on the Senate Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats, and that would have led to another contentious public hearing.
O’Dowd’s alleged involvement in the scandal stems from the infamous messages written by Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly, who worked directly under O’Dowd.
One of Kelly’s emails to Port Authority officials included the message, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Christie would in turn annouce at a January 9 press conference outside the State House that he had fired Kelly, and issued a public apology in the situation.
Democratic legislators on the panel expressed their disatisfaction with O’Dowd’s testimony in June, saying it did not assign the blame to anyione in particular, and accused O’Dowd of not exhibiting enough curiousity to get to the bottom of the scandal.
O’Dowd stated he was surprised when, on December 12, Kelly came under suspicion for her involvement in the scandal.
“[Gov. Christie] said to me something to the effect of, this bridge issue is still out there, the noise on political retribution is still out there, this is a major distraction. I need you to talk to Bridget Kelly and ask her whether or not she had anything to do with closing the lanes,” O’Dowd stated at the June 9 hearing.
O’Dowd told the panel that he had “no prior knowledge”, nor did he “play a role” in the lane-closings.
Regina Egea, Director of the Governor’s Office’s Authorities Unit, will take on the role of Chief of Staff in O’Dowd’s absence.
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