(TRENTON) — A three-bill package sponsored by Assemblymen Paul D. Moriarty and Matthew W. Milam that would help curtail excessive perks and compensation at New Jersey’s three southern bi-state transportation agencies was released Thursday from the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee.
The agencies — the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) [PA & NJ], the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) [DE & NJ], and the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) [PA & NJ] — are funded through tax dollars and tolls. A March report on the DRPA by the state Office of the Comptroller found millions of dollars in toll money misspent and misused over the last decade.
“These are common sense reforms, some of which are already being put into place by the agencies,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Codifying the changes in law will give commuters piece of mind and make it that much harder for unscrupulous individuals to undo the reforms in the future.”
“It’s difficult to believe these agencies claims of poverty when they are doling out free EZ-Passes and other perks to employees and officers,” said Milam (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “Implementing these reforms will give motorists some confidence that their toll dollars are actually going to fund roadway improvements.”
The three-bill package (A-1244, 1245 & 1246) would impose various restrictions on the bi-state agencies, their subsidiary corporations, commissioners, officers and employees.
Specifically they would prohibit the agencies and their subsidiary corporations from:
- Compensating any commissioner, officer or employee for expenses related to commuting or a personal vehicle;
- Exempting any commissioner, officer or employee or former commissioner, officer or employee from payment of any of its tolled facilities or reimbursing any such individual for use of any of its tolls, Commission Transit Corporation rail fares (DRPA only) or transportation services (DRBA only) or for payment of any other expenses for commuting between home and work or for travel not directly related to the public business of the agency;
- Providing to any commissioner, officer or employee a driver whose assigned full-time or part-time duties are to operate any motor vehicle in which the commissioner, officer or employee or an immediate family member is a passenger, unless the driver is a law enforcement officer who is assigned to provide for the security of the commissioner, officer or employee when the need for such security has been documented;
- Compensating any commissioner, officer or employee for overnight travel on behalf of the agency or for purposes of conducting agency business unless such travel arrangements and itinerary are approved in writing by the agency in a public meeting, except in emergent situations relating to the agency’s business;
- Extending to any commissioner, officer or employee a personal line of credit or any other form of credit agreement for any purpose unless the use of credit is directly related and essential to the performance of those official duties of the commissioner, officer, or employee, as documented in writing, that concern the maintenance of security for specified persons or property, law enforcement, inspections or audits of regulated facilities, entities or persons, or the health, safety and welfare of members of the public;
- Providing to any commissioner, officer or employee any personal expense allowance or contingent fund for personal or official expenses, except where such allowance or fund is expressly provided for by statute or legislative appropriation;
- Providing to any commissioner, officer or employee an allowance, stipend, subsidy or other form of payment for the purchase, lease or maintenance of a residence; and
- Providing tuition reimbursement unless:
- The course is taken at an accredited public institution of higher education in Pennsylvania or New Jersey (DRPA; DRJTBC) or Delaware or New Jersey (DRBA);
- The course is directly related to the skills and knowledge required for the duties being performed by the officer or employee or required for the performance of the duties of a position to which the officer or employee may directly be promoted from the current position;
- The officer or employee agrees to remain an officer or employee for five years after the final tuition reimbursement is made; and
- The amount of the reimbursement does not exceed 50 percent of the tuition.
The bills also prohibit commissioners, officers and employees of the agencies and their subsidiary corporations from:
- Soliciting or accepting any compensation, reward, employment, gift, honorarium, out-of-state travel or subsistence expense or other thing of value from any source other than the commission for any matter related to the official duties of the commissioner, officer or employee or under any other circumstance which could reasonably be expected to influence the manner in which the agency’s business is conducted;
- Engaging in employment with any professional service provider, vendor or independent contractor of the agency for two years after termination;
- Accepting use of an agency, or agency subsidiary-owned, residence for purposes not directly related and essential to the performance of those official duties of the officer or employee; and
- Soliciting, receiving or agreeing to receive, whether directly or indirectly, any ticket or other form of admission to any place of entertainment that is provided free of charge or at a discounted rate by the sponsor, promoter, performer or operator of the event or entertainment venue unless the same free or reduced admission is available to:
- The public;
- A class consisting of all officers or employees of Pennsylvania, Delaware or New Jersey state agencies, as appropriate, whether or not restricted on the basis of geographic consideration;
- All members of a group or class in which membership is unrelated to agency service;
- All members of an organization, such as an employees’ association or state or other public entity credit union, in which membership is related to commission service; or
- A group or class that is not defined in a manner that specifically discriminates among state or agency officers or employees on the basis of branch of government or type of responsibility, or on a basis that favors those of higher rank or rate of pay.
“These reforms will serve as a reality check to the members of these agencies, should they once again begin contemplating lavish entitlements,” said Milam.
“Our legislation will help these agencies better focus on their primary concern: the motoring public,” said Moriarty.
Any commissioner, office or employee of an agency or its subsidiary corporations who willfully engages in conduct, or accepts a benefit, in violation of the provisions of these bills would be subject to removal from office or employment and face fines of up to $10,000.
As all three agencies are bi-state entities, identical legislation would need to be passed in Pennsylvania (DRPA; DRJTBC) and Delaware (DRBA) for the provisions of these bills to take effect.
The bill package was unanimously released from the transportation panel. It now heads to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post the bills for a floor vote.