"We Command You:" NJ Pol Hits Port Authority Execs With Subpoenas

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(UPDATED with Port Authority comment) A top New Jersey Democrat has issued subpoenas to four executives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who chairs the state Assembly's Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities committee, said the agency has failed to adequately respond to repeated requests for information on toll increases, the cancellation of a trans-Hudson tunnel, and possible patronage hiring.

“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.”

This is the latest skirmish in a series of rancorous exchanges between elected officials and Port executives. Last year, in the midst of a public outcry over toll and fare hikes at the agency’s bridges and tunnels, outside consultants took a detailed look at the authority and described a dysfunctional bureaucracy with a debt load that had more than doubled, due, in part, to ballooning redevelopment costs at the World Trade Center site. Also last year, the Automobile Association of America brought suit against the NY-NJ Port Authority, claiming it was using toll revenue to fund the WTC -- a charge the agency denies. That suit is still pending.

And this spring, a Senate hearing ostensibly about the fairness of the 2011 toll hike went off the rails when Port executive Bill Baroni went after New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg -- an ugly exchange that generated still more correspondence between Democrats and the agency.

Wisniewski's subpoenas were delivered to Patrick Foye, the Port's executive director; Bill Baroni; deputy executive director; Karen E. Eastman, board secretary; and Daniel D. Duffy, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey FOI administrator. According to the subpoena, they are required to respond by November 8.

Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port, said: “We have received the subpoenas and are reviewing them. In addition to previously turning over thousands of pages of documents to the Committee, the Port Authority’s finances were thoroughly reviewed by two international consulting firms.”

You can read one of the subpoenas here.