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McKeon Statement on NJ Transit Appointment of Richard Bagger to Help Oversee Hudson River Rail Tunnel Project

Reiterates Concern about Unqualified Christie Allies Getting Key Transit Positions

(TRENTON) – Assembly Judiciary Chairman John McKeon (D-Essex/Morris), leader of the Assembly inquiry into NJ Transit safety and operations, released the following statement Wednesday on the mass transit agency’s appointment of Richard Bagger – a former chief of staff to Gov. Christie and a Trump transition advisor – to help oversee the Hudson River rail tunnel project:
“I am deeply concerned with the recent Bloomberg report that Gov. Christie’s former chief-of-staff, Richard Bagger, has been appointed by the board of NJ Transit to help oversee the Hudson River Tunnel Project. Mr. Bagger serves as an Executive Vice-President at Celgene Corporation and as an advisor to President- Elect Trump’s transition team.
“How Mr. Bagger will find time to tackle three jobs – advisor to the transition, Celgene and NJ Transit – remains to be seen as neither the Trump transition team, NJ Transit, Celgene nor Mr. Bagger have made any statements to the press about his appointment.
“In fact, the appointment of Mr. Bagger was not done via a regular open public meeting, but rather a ‘special telephone meeting’ of the board. Mr. Bagger will serve as one of three initial trustees to the newly formed Gateway Development Corporation, the public entity that will oversee the Hudson River project. No other actions appear to have been taken during this special meeting, nor was any salary or compensation announced for Mr. Bagger.
“Sadly, this appointment again fits into a pattern the agency and administration seem to have created. It’s similar to that of Michael Drewniak, Gov. Christie’s former press secretary, who along with at least 10 other top ranking NJ Transit officials have limited to no transit experience yet make key strategic decisions for NJ Transit.
“These individuals with ties to Gov. Christie’s administration make up to $170,000 per year. Several current NJ Transit employees were interviewed as part of the now-discredited Mastro report on the George Washington Bridge access lane closings and were on the witness list for the recently completed federal trial that stems from those lane closings. Mr. Drewniak testified in that trial. Mr. Bagger, Mr. Drewniak and the others are people who played important roles in Gov. Christie’s administration before they showed up at NJ Transit.
“How are they qualified for these jobs? The public deserves answers.
“In 2010, Gov. Christie withheld NJ Transit funding and vowed to ‘end patronage hiring.’
“Once again, Gov. Christie’s actions do not match his words or promises.
“I plan on asking NJ Transit about this hiring and look forward to their response prior to our next hearing on their agency on Dec. 6.”