NY/NJ Port Authority Chair David Samson is in ever deeper trouble. The NJ Working Families Alliance (NJWFA) has presented a strong complaint against Samson to the State Ethics Committee alleging serious violations of the NJ Conflicts of Interest Law (CIL). Samson might have avoided much of the ongoing scrutiny had he announced earlier that at 74 years of age he had decided it was time to leave the post. Instead he dug in, and now more and more information is being unearthed about his activities. Nonetheless, he may yet escape the net with the help of the NJ Ethics Committee which itself seems ethically-challenged.
The CIL establishes reasonable ethical guidelines to which NJ appointees, including David Samson, must adhere. These guidelines, as explained in the Complaint, indicate that no commissioner “should use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or advantages for himself or others…” nor “should act in his official capacity in any manner wherein he has a direct or indirect personal financial interest that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgement…”
Today’s NY Times article adds yet more examples of how David Samson’s efforts and his votes on the P. A. Board have benefitted his law firm Wolff & Samson and Governor Christie. “A comprehensive examination of Mr. Samson’s dealings with Governor Christie and his administration… shows the extent to which their ambitions and successes became intertwined. Mr. Samson and his law firm benefited financially. Mr. Christie benefited politically.” These examples of conflicts include bridge construction contracts, business retention subsidies and a “booming bond business.”
NJSpotlight recently revealed that “the board voted secretly to approve last month Susan Espasa Guerrero as Gov. Chris Christie’s choice of a new Executive Director of the State Ethics Commission.” NJ Spotlight points out she had served in the governor’s office with nine Christie appointees who were subpoenaed by the legislative committee investigating the Bridgegate scandal. “Earlier she worked as a young lawyer at the same law firm as Christie and William Palatucci, the governor’s most trusted political counselor and was later named to serve as an Associate Counsel in the governor’s office after being vetted by Christie’s transition team, which was headed by Samson, who had served as Christie’s campaign counsel.” If it smells like a fish and swims like a fish, it’s probably fishy.
At this moment a big fish is squirming in a net, and often the biggest fishes escape. The NJWFA complaint and investigative bodies, nonetheless, are drawing the net tighter.