After a four-month delay, Gov. Harry Hughes today released a report that says Secretary of Transportation Lowell K. Bridwell failed to testify in a "full and candid manner" in a federal court case involving the building of a New York City highway.
Hughes defended Bridwell today, saying he did not agree with the conclusions of a panel, which the governor appointed, that Bridwell on three different occasions, including once before the panel, was less than completely honest.
Hughes appointed the panel, composed of Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, House Spaker Benjamin L. Cardin and State Sen. John A. Cade, last July to investigate accusations made against Bridwell by U. S. District Court Judge Thomas P. Griesa.
In an opinion released June 30, 1982, Grisea was extremely critical of Bridwell for withholding key environmental impact information relating to the construction of the Westway highway project in New York City. Bridwell served as project director on Westway during the 1970s and testified before Griesa in a suit brought by the Sierra Club, an environmental group. Griesa's criticism centered on whether Bridwell withheld information on the existence of fish, specifically striped bass, in the Hudson River.
The 23-page report found that the trial judge's "broad and categorical denunciation of Bridwell's testimony is not supported by the evidence." In fact, the report is more critical of the judge than it is of Bridwell, saying the judge "had a dark and distorted view of Secretary Bridwell's testiomy.".
But the panel found that Bridwell "did not testify with complete forthrightness in significant respects . . . . We do not believe that either the tempestuous courtroom environment or his role as chief defender of the Westway Project can or should relieve him of responsibility to be truthful and forthcoming or excuse his failure to testify under oath in a full and candid manner."
The panel said Bridwell's testimony "was marred by excessive advocacy, which is at odds with the limitations placed upon such advocacy when testifying under oath." While the panel said that Bridwell's advocacy on behalf of the project and his client was understandable, "when taking the witness stand, Bridwell shouldered the burden borne by every witness--the duty to respond accurately and completely to all questions posed, even if the answer might counterproductive to his 'side.' His status as a quasipublic official, and as a professional consultant, only magnifies the duty to testify truthfully."
The governor and the panel members disagreed on what the findings mean. Hughes, in a nine-page reply, said he found nothing wrong with Bridwell's testimony. After reading Hughes' answer, Cardin said, "Obviously we disagree with the governor. The decision on what action to take is his . . . . But we do not think the secretary did what he should have in the courtroom. What he did should not be condoned. It was wrong."
The panel was not asked to make any recommendations to the governor but simply to report its findings.
Bridwell, who took two months to give Hughes his 16-page reply to the report, said today he was "glad this is over." Bridwell said he did not believe the report would hurt his dealings with the legislature "in any significant way. This General Assembly will judge me by what I do here."
Bridwell said it was his understanding that Hughes does not plan to release the complete, several-hundred page transcript of the report.
Hughes said it "is my right not to release the transcript. Many of the conversations with the panel were freewheeling and sometimes personal." He also said there were legal questions about whether he could release the transcript since the New York case is being appealed.
Sachs, however, said he could find no legal problem with releasing the transcript and that he and Cardin thought it should be released. The panelists said they had no problem with deleting some of the more freewheeling remarks.