Assembly Issues Subpoenas To Port Authority Officials

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Assemblyman John Wisniewski

Assemblyman John Wisniewski

TRENTON – Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski announced subpoenas were delivered Thursday to four top Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials who failed to adequately respond to Assembly inquiries about the agency toll increases, Gov. Christie’s decision to cancel a Hudson River commuter rail tunnel project and potential patronage hiring from the governor’s office.

The subpoenas come after Port Authority officials failed to respond to repeated information requests by the Assembly Transportation Committee following a series of scathing audits and reports of waste, abuse and mismanagement at the multi-billion dollar bi-state agency. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) is chairman of that committee, which was given subpoena power in March.

“We gave the Port Authority numerous chances to cooperate and time and time again it failed to adequately do so,” Wisniewski said. “The Port Authority is an out-of-control agency that has forgotten it serves the public. It would prefer to hide information on toll increases, the decision to halt the tunnel project and potential patronage, but it’s time to get straight answers. The Port Authority can no longer obfuscate. It must now finally respect the public.”

The subpoenas were delivered to:

  • Patrick Foye, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director;
  • Bill Baroni; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, deputy executive director;
  • Karen E. Eastman, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey board secretary;
  • Daniel D. Duffy, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey FOI administrator;

An August 2011 New York Comptroller audit revealed that the Port Authority had wasted nearly half of a billion dollars on overtime costs over the last five years.

Despite such reports of mismanagement and abuse, the agency rushed through near record toll hikes with little public input, citing, among other things, increased costs for the Word Trade Center reconstruction project. Yet after the agency was sued by AAA of New York and Northern New Jersey, the authority rescinded the claims that a portion of the tolls would be used for the World Trade Center site, calling into question the need for the hike.

Consequently, Wisniewski called a Feb. 2 hearing of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee to investigate the authority’s finances and invited the Executive Director of the Port Authority, who declined to attend or send a representative in his place.

Several days later, another scathing audit described the agency as “a challenged and dysfunctional organization” that suffered from lack of oversight, insufficient cost controls and poor capital planning.

After being given subpoena power by the full Assembly in March, the transportation committee followed up with an information request in May, but the Port Authority, in response, failed to provide sought-after information on toll increases, the tunnel project cancellation and potential patronage hiring from Gov. Christie’s office.

“Port Authority officials would prefer to play games to protect their kingdom, but the public deserves these answers,” Wisniewski said. “The exorbitant toll increases were painful to commuters. The decision to kill the tunnel cost New Jersey 6,000 immediate jobs, countless others in the future and put New Jersey’s infrastructure and economic development at risk. Potential patronage is unacceptable. We have no choice but to utilize this subpoena power. Let’s shed the light of day on these issues once and for all.”

The subpoenas must be responded to by Nov. 8 and seek:

  • All documents and correspondence, produced between January 1, 2011 and the present date, between Governor Chris Christie and/or any employee, officer, or executive of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, concerning the toll increase approved by the Port Authority on August 9, 2011, and including all records related to the amount of revenue projected to be generated from the toll increase and the projects to be funded with that revenue;
  • All documents and correspondence, produced between January 1, 2011 and the present date, between and among employees, executives, or officers of the Port Authority concerning the toll increase approved by the Port Authority on August 9, 2011, and including all records related to the amount of revenue projected to be generated from the toll increase and the projects to be funded with that revenue;
  • All documents and correspondence, produced between March 26, 2010 and the present date, between any employee, officer, or executive of the Port Authority and Governor Chris Christie concerning the Access to the Region’s Core (“ARC”) project, including all data and records used to determine the cost overruns identified in the ARC Executive Steering Committee’s October 7, 2010 memorandum to Governor Christie;
  • All documents and correspondence, produced between March 26, 2010 and the present date, between any employee, officer, or executive of the Port Authority and New Jersey State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff concerning the ARC project, including all data and records used to determine the cost overruns identified in the ARC Executive Steering Committee’s October 7, 2010 memorandum to Governor Christie;
  • All documents and correspondence, produced between March 26, 2010 and the present date, between any employee, officer, or executive of the Port Authority and Richard Bagger, former chief of staff to Governor Christie, concerning the ARC project, including all data and records used to determine the cost overruns identified in the ARC Executive Steering Committee’s October 7, 2010 memorandum to Governor Christie;
  • All documents and correspondence, produced between March 26, 2010 and the present date, between any employee, officer, or executive of the Port Authority and James Weinstein, Executive Director; Kim Vaccari, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer; and Lynn Bowersox, Assistant Executive Director of New Jersey Transit concerning the ARC project, including all data and records used to determine the cost overruns identified in the ARC Executive Steering Committee’s October 7, 2010 memorandum to Governor Christie;
  • All documents and correspondence, produced between March 26, 2010 and the present date, between any employee, officer, or executive of the Port Authority and James Simpson, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, concerning the ARC project, including all data and records used to determine the cost overruns identified in the ARC Executive Steering Committee’s October 7, 2010 memorandum to Governor Christie;
  • All documents and correspondence, produced between March 26, 2010 and the present date, between and among employees, executives, or officers of the Port Authority concerning the ARC project, including all data and records used to determine the cost overruns identified in the ARC Executive Steering Committee’s October 7, 2010 memorandum to Governor Christie;
  • All documents and correspondence, produced between September 1, 2010 and October 7, 2010, in connection with the ARC Executive Steering Committee and any documents and correspondence concerning the recusal of Mr. Simpson from the ARC Executive Steering Committee including the “Recusal Memo to Myron P. Shevell” referred to in the October 5, 2010 email from Vanessa Torpila-McCulley to Philip E. Issac;
  • All correspondence between January 1, 2010 and the present date showing the actual referral of candidates to the Port Authority by Governor Christie’s office; the names of those candidates who were recommended by Governor Christie’s office but who were not offered positions at the Port Authority; and the job posting, job description, and methods used to advertise the positions that were eventually filled by those referred by Governor Christie’s office; and
  • For the period beginning January 1, 2010 through the present date, copies of the Port Authority Board of Commissioner’s Executive Session meeting minutes.

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