The New Jersey chairman of the Port Authority thinks Gov. Cuomo would abuse his power if he gets to appoint an agency investigator who can prosecute cases.
When asked directly during an interview with the Daily News editorial board, PA Chairman John Degnan said he believes Cuomo would use a powerful, hand-picked inspector general against agency officials who rebuffed his priorities.
The governor is seeking legislation for the post, to be filled without Senate confirmation. The investigator would go after crimes and ethical wrongdoing on New York issues.
“This prosecutor would be appointed by, serve at the pleasure of … the governor,” Degnan said. “Do we want to or do we need to give a governor that kind of untrammeled authority?”
Degnan has been a persistent critic of Cuomo’s role at the agency, and has particularly clashed with him over priorities. Cuomo has pushed through major overhauls of the city’s airports, while Degnan has championed a new Manhattan bus terminal for Garden State commuters.
One of Cuomo’s own PA board appointees, Commissioner Ken Lipper, said such power would create the “temptation” for abuse.
“This is sowing the seeds for Bridgegate Two,” Lipper said at The News’ editorial board meeting.
The Bridgegate scandal engulfed the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after a member of his staff and two Port Authority appointees concocted a plan for political revenge by closing lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., in September 2013. The resulting four days of traffic jams — which a plotter tried to pass off as a traffic study — led to one guilty plea and two convictions, and tarnished Christie.
Cuomo rep Jon Weinstein fired back Thursday at Degnan.
“His shameless attempts to scuttle oversight at the Port Authority is only an effort to preserve his use of the agency as a personal political patronage machine doing favors for cronies and family members,” Weinstein said.
Port officials had raised concerns about a state post Degnan’s son received while Degnan was pushing for the bus terminal New Jersey lawmakers want. Degnan has adamantly denied there was any deal.