By Victoria Cavaliere
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A top spokesman for Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is scheduled to testify in Trenton on Tuesday about a scheme to create traffic gridlock at the George Washington Bridge last year, apparently as political payback.
Michael Drewniak, Christie's press secretary, and Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that oversees bridge operations, were called to appear before a legislative panel probing the closure of lanes leading to the busy commuter span linking New Jersey with New York City.
The shutdown over four days last September was green-lighted by two former Christie appointees in an apparent effort to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side of the bridge, for not endorsing Christie's re-election.
Christie has strongly denied any knowledge of or role in the "Bridgegate" scandal, but has seen his poll numbers suffer as he mulls a possible presidential bid in 2016.
The bipartisan panel in Trenton, the state capital, has sent out more than 30 subpoenas from individuals trying to determine who in Governor Christie's office and at the Port Authority might have knowledge of the shutdown.
As the scandal broke, Christie hired his own law firm to investigate. That review exonerated the governor and every current member of his staff, blaming the shutdown entirely on former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and a former appointee at the Port Authority, David Wildstein.
The legislative panel in Trenton has rejected that review as incomplete and continues to pursue documents and testimony in an effort to see how far the scandal reached.
Last week, Christina Renna, a former mid-level Christie administration official, became the first staffer to testify to the legislative panel. Renna, who reported directly to Kelly, said she did not believe her former boss dreamed up the idea of causing massive traffic jams around Fort Lee.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Richard Chang)