It’s hard to imagine that a personnel change at the top will make a fundamental difference at Port Authority if the culture of abuse of its authority and resources, directed from the inner offices of the New Jersey governor, continues. There’s scant evidence it will as long as the Port Authority is structured as it is, with great discretionary powers of both governors, and with one governor playing political games with an Authority budget larger than that of ten states.
Tag Archive: Port Authority
The legislative joint committee investigating the swirl of scandal around the 5-day North Jersey traffic snarl intentionally created by top Christie flunkies in both his inner office and at the Port Authority, has readied its next 4 subpoenas. It is calling:
Christina Genovese Renna – May 6 at 10 a.m.
William “Pat” Schuber – May 6 at 2 p.m.
Michael Drewniak – May 13 at 10 a.m.
Patrick Foye – May 13 at 2 p.m.
UPDATE: Commission clears Dudley Burdge of wrongdoing, and acknowledges it’s looking into the David Samson case. Burdge expressed anger, saying he suspected it was the Christie administration’s way of forcing CWA, his union and one Christie has made a politicslenemy, to bleed money and resources on his defense. He’s probably right.
NJ Working Families, CWA and other social justice and pro-labor activists are putting pressure on the NJ State Ethics Commission to use their powers to investigate David Samson. This morning, they showed up to press that case in person.
What the Commission focused on today, instead of the obvious issues of ethics involved in the unfolding Christie administration abuse of power questions, is the five-year-old case of CWA’s Dudley Burdge, a case which has already been dismissed by an Administrative Law Judge at a hearing early this year. CWA’s John Connelly tells Blue Jersey the story.
To the right, Dudley Burdge this morning, holding a sign reminding commissioners he didn’t close a bridge, or make millions for his law firm. He just made a phone call.
“In the six weeks since we filed ethics charges against David Samson our case has only grown stronger, and Samson’s resignation was necessary but not sufficient to repair this breach of the public trust,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families. “The State Ethics Commission is supposed to be a nonpartisan watchdog. It’s time they act like it.”
– Analilia Mejia, NJ Working Families
UPDATE: Christie has just concluded a press conference – his first in 78 days – about an hour long, announcing the Samson resignation at the top. It’s characteristic of Christie to respond with scorn or annoyance when he hears questions he doesn’t like. He heard plenty of them over the last hour or so – questioning the legitimacy of Mastro’s report, why the Governor didn’t talk to Bridget Kelly on her way out (for which he blamed the press) and when and how he knew what happened. His response was primarily to start attacking and holding culpable the media itself and insulting individual reporters attempting to ask questions. A complete front of righteous indignation, ginned up out of nowhere. – REE
Yesterday, Christie’s lawyer, in the rollout of his elaborate but incomplete 360-page ‘exoneration’ of the Governor, cleared Port Authority chair David Samson of wrongdoing in the sudden local lane closures off the George Washington Bridge last September.
And today, Samson has resigned. Effective immediately.
Christie is now answering press questions for the first time in more than two months, since his rambling 2-hour news conference hours after the Bridgegate scandal he scornfully denied any knowledge of was tracked right into his executive office.
Every year, the Washington Post runs a Peeps Diorama Contest, run by the maniacal denizens of the Style section. This year, one of the entries – by Monkey Cage writer Sarah Binder – shows how deeply Chris Christie’s GWB problem has saturated popular political culture. And you don’t get more pop than Peeps.
I’m sorry, but this is genius, and it speaks to me that people in D.C. are having way more fun than people in Jersey. The detail! ChristiePeep working the cones! The rabbi(t)! The highway sign! The EZPeep lanes!
Deadline for this year’s contest was yesterday. But past entries are here.
Last Fall, Loretta Weinberg went to Port Authority commission meetings with questions for those commissioners – some of whom she voted for in the Senate. She got nothing but silence back. Finally, less than a month ago, PA Chair David Samson issued a lukewarm “apology:” “I cannot allow this agency to be mischaracterized by the actions of a few individuals when the day-to-day work of so many, including this board, is so important.”
Too much has happened, and despite the agency’s failures of transparency, and the apparent legitimacy of accusations that some of the Port Authority’s leaders have allowed it to be used for political retribution and profit-making. And just like at Gov. Christie’s “town halls,” you’re going to start seeing people show up at Port Authority commissioners meetings asking the tough questions about what went down. Wednesday, the Port Authority that doesn’t like to answer questions will be met by people demanding its chairman resign.
What: Protest outside of Port Authority Board Meeting
Where: 2 Montgomery Street, Jersey City
When: Wednesday March 19th at noon
Can you go? NJ Working Families wants to know
UPDATE: Well that was fast. Not too many minutes after news broke that a NY United States Attorney issued a Samson-related subpoena, we get news that that’s now been called off.
According to a report published a few minutes ago at the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors at the office of Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, have subpoenaed records from the Port Authority related to the business interests of its chairman, David Samson. WSJ:
According to people familiar with the matter, Manhattan federal prosecutors were specifically interested in any conflicts between Mr. Samson’s private business interests and his actions as chairman of the sprawling bi-state authority, which oversees Hudson River crossings into New York City, airports, the PATH rail system and the World Trade Center complex.
Samson is already under scrutiny of New Jersey federal prosecutors following the sudden closure by the Port Authority of local lanes at the GWB, and in connection with Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claim that LG Kim Guadagno delivered a threat to her that Sandy funds would be withheld to hard-hit Hoboken unless she approved a real-estate development for a Wolff & Samson client. The firm, where Samson is the founding partner, had no immediate response. Samson’s attorney, Michael Chertoff, who was George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security, would not comment on any investigation.
Bill Baroni, who has since resigned in disgrace, was the Deputy Exec. Director of the Post Authority of NY & NJ. Highest-ranking Jersey bureaucrat. Salary: about $300k. Appointed by Christie. Hired David Wildstein A/K/A the insidery “Wally Edge” who founded Politicker NJ and used his own PA job for shenanigans he clued Baroni in on. Baroni, a lawyer who used to be a senator in the NJ Legislature. Baroni lied to that same legislature, trying to sell them the fabrication that 5 days of commuter chaos and first-responder confusion was due to a “traffic study”. There were charts. Visual aids. And it was a show; he looked really earnest, lying. He knew it was bull, because was involved in the tomfoolery that wasn’t a “traffic study”. Baroni and Wildstein were players in the Christie scheme to raise tolls on Hudson River bridges (like GWB) and tunnels to help generate a “slush fund”. And that was used to finance big construction projects that fattened the law firm of the agency’s Chair – another player close to Christie – David Samson. Baroni, who documents show scheming with Wildstein to prevent Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman John Wisniewski from asking questions at a public meeting of the Port Authority Commissioners that they were entitled to attend.
Baroni is still employable. And he just landed well, getting a law job at Hill, Wallack.
We don’t know everything that happened in the GWB scandal. We do know Baroni lied to lawmakers. He’s complied with subpoenas. He is not disbarred. He’s entitled to find work. But it’s galling to watch a former legislator who we now know abused his power on a public salary to go from one plum position to another, safe (so far) and sound. Good luck to him.
Let the investigations continue.
Yesterday’s release of unredacted emails back-and-forth between Gov. Christie operatives in his inner office and public employees he was using as operatives inside the Port Authority showed a highly-questionable jokey convo about using their government power to cause traffic problems for a rabbi named Mendy Carlebach who David Wildstein said “pissed me off”. Here, he’s writing with Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly:
Kelly: “We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?”
Wildstein: “Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed.
Ah, then, WNYC reporter Matt Katz filed this little gem of irony, about a trip a group of NJ legislators made yesterday to Tel Aviv, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Metrowest in North Jersey. Among the travelers, six members of the Bridgegate investigation committee including both its chairs, Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Asm John Wisniewski. Katz:
And wouldn’t you know it? Their flight to Tel Aviv was, indeed, mysteriously delayed. Two hours on the tarmac at Newark Airport, which is operated by the Port Authority.
This morning, we have the news that David Wildstein’s position at Port Authority, from which he resigned Dec. 6, is going to be eliminated. It was always a weird situation. As Steve Strunsky, in this morning’s Ledger points out, in Port Authority’s vast and sprawling bureaucracy there’s never been a job like it. No job description. No résumé of relevant experience necessary. $150k/year. He was placed there by Christie political appointee Bill Baroni, also now resigned in disgrace.
And now the Director of Interstate Capital Projects, whatever that is, will be no more. When Wildstein had the job, it wasn’t clear what the job was. Or, rather it was. Our Quote of the Day:
“On many occasions I heard both he and Baroni say they have only one constituent: Chris Christie,” said a former official, one of two who asked for anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize colleagues still at the agency.
That has the ring of truth. And given what we now know, which Christie has worked hard to keep the public from knowing, it explains why his mixed-up explanations sound like bullshit. Because they probably are. To understand what David Wildstein’s role at Port Authority really was, read this: Ex-blogger is Governor Christie’s eyes, ears inside the Port Authority. That was published a full 18 months before those sudden lane closures whose political directive is now traced right to Christie’s inner circle