Subpoena Power Extended until End of Legislative Session
(TRENTON) – The Assembly Thursday voted 45-29-1 to approve legislation Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored extending the transportation committee’s subpoena power over the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The subpoena power was set to expire in March, but approval the resolution (AR-91) extends the authority until the end of the legislative session on Jan. 14, 2014. As an Assembly resolution, it only requires full Assembly approval before taking effect.
The panel sent subpoenas to four top Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials in October after they failed to adequately respond to Assembly inquiries about the agency’s toll increases, Gov. Christie’s decision to cancel a Hudson River commuter rail tunnel project and potential patronage hiring from the governor’s office.
Wisniewski said the agency failed to respond adequately even to the subpoenas.
“The Port Authority has provided limited and incomplete responses to the committee’s subpoenas, and the committee cannot fulfill its charge without full and complete documentary and testimonial evidence,” Wisniewski said. “We have given the Port Authority numerous chances to cooperate but time and time again it fails to adequately do so. This is an out-of-control agency acting more like a kingdom than one created to serve the public, so with our basic questions remain unanswered, this fight on behalf of the public will continue.”
The resolution continues the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee as a special committee of the General Assembly to investigate all aspects of the finances of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, including, but not limited to, the recently proposed 10-year capital plan, the allocation of the revenue generated from the recently imposed toll increase plan and where that revenue is being spent, and the salary, overtime and other compensation paid to officers and employees of the authority.
“This is all public information,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The Port Authority’s refusal to cooperate begs the question of what exactly it’s trying to hide, but the Assembly will continue to look into these concerns on behalf of beleaguered toll payers and commuters.”
For the purposes of carrying out its charge, the resolution confers upon the committee all the powers conferred under the laws and the Constitution of the State of New Jersey and the United States, including, but not limited to, the following powers:
· to issue subpoenas to compel attendance and testimony of persons and the production of books, papers, correspondence, and other documents;
· to hold hearings, take testimony under oath, and receive documentary or physical evidence
· to convene a meeting or hearing to determine the adequacy of the return and rule on the objection if a return on a subpoena or order for the production of documentary evidence is incomplete or accompanied by an objection;
· to utilize the powers provided under R.S.52:13-3 or hold the Port Authority in contempt of the committee;
· to make to the General Assembly any recommendations by report or resolution;
· to respond to any judicial or other process, or to make application to the courts of this State, any other state, or the United States;
· to report possible violations of any law to appropriate federal, State, or local authorities; and
· to adopt additional rules or procedures.
This resolution expires at noon on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.
“I remain hopeful the Port Authority will do the right thing and begin acting in straightforward and transparent manner, but evidence shows that’s unfortunately unlikely,” Wisniewski said. “With this additional authority, the committee will be prepared to do the right thing on behalf of the public.”
The October subpoenas were delivered to:
· Patrick Foye, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director;
· Bill Baroni; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, deputy executive director;
· Karen E. Eastman, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey board secretary;
· Daniel D. Duffy, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey FOI administrator;
The subpoenas came after Port Authority officials failed to respond to repeated information requests by the Assembly Transportation Committee following a series of scathing audits and reports of waste, abuse and mismanagement at the multi-billion dollar bi-state agency.