A Washington lobbyist who played a leading role in raising money for Hillary Clinton’s presidential runs resigned her commissionership at a top transportation agency after being caught cursing out police on video.
“You may shut the f— up!” fumed the lobbyist, Caren Turner, at a Tenafly, New Jersey, cop during a March 31 traffic stop of a car in which Turner’s daughter had been a passenger.
“You’re an ass,” Turner later told the officer, according to a police report released Wednesday. “Look at that smug-ass look on your face.”
Turner, 60, had become increasingly frustrated and angry after police politely declined to discuss in detail why they had pulled over that car, which was being impounded after being found to have an expired registration.
A police dashcam video — which has gone viral — shows Turner, who lives in Tenafly, arriving in her own vehicle just as police were finishing up ticketing the driver for violations that included failure to have a current insurance card, driving an unregistered vehicle and driving with the license plate obscured.
Turner, who heads her own government and public affairs firm, was appointed the head of the Port Authority’s ethics committee last year by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican.
She has raised money for Republicans and Democrats, and in 2008 served on the national finance committee of Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Turner did not answer the door at her home on Wednesday when a CNBC reporter knocked. Efforts to reach her by phone for comment were unsuccessful.
Her company’s webpage notes that she has been described as having “an iron fist in a velvet glove,” and that she “advocates winning on the merits of the argument, not the contacts.”
But she seemed to do just the opposite in the video.
“No, don’t call me ‘miss,’ I’m ‘commissioner, thank you!’ Turner snapped at one of the cops as they stood on the side of a road in broad daylight.
“I’m the commissioner of the Port Authority, and I’m heading up over 4,000 police officers.”
“I’m also an attorney,” she sniffed.
Turner in short order told police she was there “as a concerned citizen and friend of the mayor” who has “been in Tenafly for 25 years,” that she planned on reporting the officers to Tenafly’s police commissioner, and that the occupants of the car included grad students at Yale and MIT.
She also accused the two officers of having “ruined” the Easter and Passover weekend “of a lot of people” by stopping the car.
“I got all your information, sweetheart,” Turner told the officer, referring to his name and badge number. “I got your name.”
“I’m very disappointed in the way you are acting.”
The officer had several times calmly told Turner that she should ask the driver of the car why police had stopped the car. The cop noted that the driver and passengers were adults.
“No, no, no, I need to know,” Turner pointedly said when the officer explained that the car’s driver had all the information about the stop and could tell her what was going on.
At one point, as Turner harangued him, the officer said: “I just don’t appreciate your demeanor. You’re being very demanding.”
Later, he asked her to stop walking toward him as he was being forced against the front end of his car to avoid contact with her.
When that cop told her she could take her daughter with her, Turner went ballistic.
“You may not tell me when to take my kid, you may shut the f— up!” Turner snapped.
A police report about the incident written by one of the officers notes Turner’s “condescending tone,” and also that “she was attempting to misappropriately use her professional position to gain authority in this situation.”
Turner later was seen at Tenafly police headquarters speaking to a dispatcher and then a lieutenant, according to the report.
Tenafly’s police chief later contacted the Port Authority about the incident. The PA’s inspector general opened an inquiry into Turner’s conduct, which led her to resign last Friday.
The Port Authority, in an emailed statement said, “The video speaks for itself. The conduct was indefensible.”
“The Board takes its recently adopted Code of Ethics for Commissioners extremely seriously and was preparing to form a special committee to review the findings of the Inspector General investigation and take action at this Thursday’s Board meeting,” the PA said. “Commissioner Turner’s resignation was appropriate given her outrageous conduct.”
The PA was rocked in recent years by the “Bridgegate” scandal in which a Christie staffer and political appointees conspired to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, at the George Washington Bridge. David Samson, the PA’s executive director, later pleaded guilty to a crime relating to coercing United Airlines to restart a discontinued flight to South Carolina so Samson could more easily visit his vacation home there.
Tenafly’s mayor, Peter Rustin, told CNBC that the conduct of Turner, with whom he is friendly, was “unfortunate.”
“I support my police officers,” Rustin said. “I think they did a good job under the circumstances. It was not an easy situation. I think they showed some restraint.”
New Jersey State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who had backed Turner’s appointment to the Port Authority, said in a prepared statement that “there are no excuses for what transpired” on the video.
“Her resignation was appropriate. As was the Port Authority’s condemnation of this behavior by a commissioner,” said Weinberg, a Democrat.
Tenafly Police Chief Robert Chamberlain on Wednesday issued a statement on the incident.
“I want to thank and recognize the Port Authority of NY/NJ for their professionalism and prompt attention to the matter,” Chamberlain said. “I would like to thank everyone who reached out to the Tenafly Police Department to offer words of praise and commendation for the two officers seen on the dash cam video involving a motor vehicle stop.”
“The outpouring of support from people across the country has been truly heartfelt. I am extremely proud of the composure, poise and restraint that Officer Savitsky and Officer Casper exhibited that day,” Chamberlain said. “I truly believe their professionalism is a representation of the greater law enforcement community and is reflective of new training initiatives to assist
law enforcement personnel in similar situations.”
— Additional reporting by Ashley Turner.