- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey taxpayers have been billed nearly $1.1 million for a law firm’s first couple of weeks of work for Gov. Chris Christie’s office during investigations of lane closures near the George Washington Bridge.

The bill comes after lawyers for the Los Angeles-based firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher agreed to reduce their rate to $350 per hour from the original agreement of $650. The bill covered services from the time the firm was hired in mid-January through the end of that month but not work done since then.

Gibson Dunn produced a report in March that found Christie and his top staffers were not involved in the lane closures ordered by a former Christie aide as political retribution. The report, based on interviews of governor’s office staff members and materials found on their computers and phones, has been criticized by some as a whitewash.

Gibson Dunn also helped Christie and his staff comply with subpoenas from both lawmakers and federal investigators.

When it was announced in January, their $650 per hour rate was presented as a discount of up to 40 percent for the firm’s top lawyers. But it stuck out partly because the law firm working for a legislative committee looking into the lane closures and other issues is billing $350 per hour. The bills from that firm have not been made public.

Gibson Dunn said in a letter to the state Attorney General’s Office that its task kept growing as lawmakers and prosecutors asked for documents relating to additional issues. It said it will continue billing at the lower rate.

In the $1.1 million bill, Gibson Dunn also did not charge for more than 14 hours per day per lawyer and reduced bills for times when more than one lawyer participated in interviews. In addition, it did not seek reimbursement for travel expenses.

The governor’s office has not provided an estimated total of what the cost to taxpayers will be.

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