Transportation Chairman Explains Process, Reasons behind Empowering His Committee to Obtain Port Authority Documents, Testimony through Subpoena
(TRENTON) — Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) issued a multimedia package Thursday in which he discusses the need to grant his transportation panel the power of subpoena so that they may compel answers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) on the operations of the bi-state agency.
The legislation (AR-61) was prompted by scathing reports on and questionable decisions by the Port Authority over the last six months. It would grant the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee the ability to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance and testimony of individuals and the production of requested books, papers, correspondence and other documents relevant to the Port Authority’s operations and budget.
The multimedia package consists of a video of the Deputy Speaker discussing his legislation, and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of Wisniewski’s comments is appended below:
Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Chairman:
“Several weeks ago, the Assembly Transportation Committee invited Executive Director [Patrick J.] Foye, from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to come to the Transportation Committee and explain to us the transparency the transparency problem that the Port Authority has in general.
“We’ve seen recently that there are some 30 new hires at the Port Authority. Many of the top executives at the Port Authority earn more money than the governors of New York and New Jersey. We’ve seen requests for information, called FOIA requests — or Open Public Record Act requests — routinely ignored by the Port Authority.
“Over the last 20 years, they’ve taken care of themselves and not necessarily the motoring or the transportation public.
“We’ve seen fares go up; we’ve seen tolls go up; we’ve seen an increase in their budget. It’s an agency that’s taking public money in the form of tolls, in the form of fares, and it’s using it and it’s creating an empire.
“They appear to be answerable to nobody.
“We have a responsibility in this Legislature to make sure there’s a proper level of oversight. I don’t think that exists right now.
“Our job as a transportation committee is to oversee transportation entities; independent authorities is part of our charge. When we can’t get answers from one of the agencies that we are given the oversight on, we have no choice but to look at increasing our authority by having this committee endowed with subpoena power.
“And the Assembly Transportation Committee would be able request from the Port Authority, by subpoena, documents that, so far, they’ve proven unwilling to supply through normal information requests that we’ve done. It would create a legal obligation on the part of the Port Authority to respond to the Assembly Transportation Committee with the requests we make. It would not only apply to documents, but it would apply to personnel. So, if there are individuals that we want to have come testify, they would be required, under the subpoena, to come to the Transportation Committee; they’d be required to testify under oath; and they would be required to provide the documents that we are looking for.
“And so, this is not grandstanding. This is the Legislature doing its job.”