Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week called for budget and management audits of the Delaware River Port Authority, as the bi-state agency has come under scrutiny recently for certain management practices.
Each governor sent letters to the DRPA’s board chairman and vice chairman, urging the authority to submit to full budget and performance audits to be conducted by Pennsylvania’s auditor general, or an outside auditor, and also New Jersey’s comptroller. Pennsylvania’s auditor general is an ex-officio member of the DRPA board.
The DRPA manages four toll bridges that connect Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It also oversees the PATCO commuter-rail line that runs from southeastern New Jersey to Philadelphia. The authority has $1.4 billion of outstanding debt, said chief financial officer John Hanson.
The spotlight on the DRPA stems from local news reports of mismanagement. The agency’s former public safety director, Michael Joyce, resigned last week over reports that he gave a DRPA E-ZPass to his daughter. Joyce had a yearly car allowance of $9,000 on top of a $180,000 salary, according to DRPA’s website.
The authority last week terminated car allowances and is considering ending its free bridge and mass-transit passes for its employees, Hanson said. DRPA workers receive 100 free bridge passes annually and use an average of 50 each year.
In their letters, Rendell and Christie urged the authority to discontinue free passes for employees and the car allowance program, conduct a review of senior management compensation, require public board votes on all contracts, strengthen anti-nepotism policies, enact a “no gifts” rule to eliminate possible influence, require all vendors to disclose political contributions, among other reforms.
Christie previously said he would not approve a renewal of DRPA chief executive officer John Matheussen’s contract until the authority undergoes a formal evaluation and implements reforms. That contract expired on July 18.
Pennsylvania auditor general Jack Wagner in a letter to DRPA board chairman John Estey said the authority should reduce the contract requirement for competitive bidding to $25,000 from $100,000 and end DRPA’s practice of funding economic development projects and focus solely on its transportation operations.
The next board meeting is set for Aug. 18.