New York makes its move on the Port AuthorityPort Authority chairman David Samson is expected to show up at tomorrow’s scheduled board meeting but only to watch himself and New Jersey be neutered.
It looks to be an embarrassing turn of events for the former New Jersey state attorney general and power broker as he must sit silently while he and Gov. Chris Christie essentially lose control of the agency. Samson, however, has little choice. Leaving now, Samson has told associates, would lend an aroma of complicity in the scandal that has enveloped him and Christie ever since two Ft. Lee access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were closed in September. Yet staying after his influence has been eroded by the many investigations is a spectacular fall from grace.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said frustratingly little about the controversy and when he does speak, he only reinforces the notion of comity between the two states and a desire for his counterpart on the other side of the Hudson River to clean up the mess created by his appointees. But, as is always the case in Cuomo-land, watch what he does. He is making his move.
By the end of Wednesday’s meeting, New York will have taken control of the bi-state agency as the reigns shift to deputy board chair Scott Rechler, a Cuomo’s appointee. The full New Jersey delegation, fatally weakened by the scandal, is expected to give him unanimous support for the new order.
Rechler will advance a motion to create a “Special Oversight Committee" of the board that will guide the authority’s response to the multiple investigations spurred by the lane closures and subsequent media revelations that Christie and Samson may have wielded the power of the PA for political and professional favors.
Now the PA’s internal inspector general, who is conducting his own probe of the lanes closures, the involvement of the authority's police force and other matters will report to Rechler’s subcommittee. The new panel also will guide the authority’s response to request for documents and testimony from the investigations by the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and the legislative committee examining the Port Authority’s operations. The committee will have final say on whether to pay David Wildstein's legal fees.
The special committee also will examine reforms needed to prevent another hijacking of the PAs operations and how its board members can avoid conflicts of interests. Expect stronger whistle-blower rules, stricter recusal policies for board members and other good governance rules that will require approval by the legislatures in both states.
Rechler, a major Long Island developer and close ally of PA Executive director Patrick Foye will chair the special committee. Two other Cuomo appointees, Basil Paterson and Jeffrey Lynford, will give New York a three-vote majority. Rechler’s deputy chair will be Richard Bagger, a former Christie chief of staff who stepped down at the end of 2011 and he will be joined by Raymond Pocino, another Christie board appointee. While no action by the special committee can take place without the support of at least one New Jersey appointee, any attempt by them to block action will making Christie seem obstructionist.
Cuomo now has the power to reshape the Port Authority. And New Jersey will have little choice but to accept what happens.