BY TOM HESTER SR.
In the aftermath of a news report that since Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010, 50 people with ties to him or his administration have obtained jobs at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a Democratic state senator is calling for more transparency at the bi-state agency.
The jobs range from federal affairs director to toll taker and together pay about $4 million in annual salaries, according to The Record of Hackensack.
The Port Authority issued a statement to The Record stating that it "stands by the new employees" and that it has reduced the number of employees and cut payroll by $10.5 million over the past two years.
Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen) said The Record story proves that more transparency is needed at the agency to give the toll-paying public confidence that its money is being properly spent.
“The governor has rightly gone after agency after agency that have acted as patronage pits, except for one glaring omission, Gordon said Monday. “For tens of thousands of residents, the Port Authority is their daily experience with these shadow governments. But unfortunately, only the shadow knows how the public‘s hard-earned money is actually being spent. No one should be immune from scrutiny, especially the Port Authority."
According to The Record report, the jobs have gone to Republican loyalists, donors and friends of Christie or other leading Republicans. The disclosures were required by a lawsuit from one former Port Authority employee, who claimed she was pushed out of her job for political reasons.
“Someone‘s ability to do the job should be the sole requirement for employment at the Port Authority, plain and simple,” Gordon said. “While it‘s always nice to be able to list a governor among your references, that relationship should have no bearing when billions of toll-payer dollars are at stake. It may sound cliché, but these jobs should be filled based on what you know, not who you know.”
Gordon is sponsoring legislation, titled the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Transparency and Accountability Act (S-1115), that would, among other things, require independent audits of Port Authority finances. Commissioners would have to abide by enhanced financial disclosure rules, as well as a new and specific fiduciary responsibility. The bill would also set specific requirements for public hearings.