Amid federal probe, Port Authority adopts new ethics rules

AP News
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Posted: Sep 25, 2015 4:25 PM

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has adopted new ethics rules as federal prosecutors probe potential wrongdoing at the agency, involving billions of dollars in public works projects.

The rules adopted unanimously at Thursday's monthly board meeting seek to limit board member conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

The U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey has been investigating the Port Authority and particularly former chairman David Samson, who stepped down in early 2014. Prosecutors have subpoenaed numerous documents from the agency pertaining to contracts that include two bridge projects and a highway project in New Jersey, as well as the Port Authority's conflict of interest and recusal policies.

The investigation grew out of the lane-closing scandal at the George Washington Bridge in 2013, which led to criminal charges against two former Port Authority officials and an aide to Gov. Chris Christie. Samson wasn't charged in the bridge investigation.

The new rules forbid board members from negotiating with outside entities on matters the board could vote on. Board members also must recuse themselves from voting on matters involving clients of their law or consulting firms.

Samson's possible involvement in a $1-a-year lease for New Jersey Transit for a park-and-ride lot in 2012 is being investigated. Samson's law firm was representing the agency. The Port Authority rescinded the lease and recently signed a deal under which it will receive roughly $875,000 per year.

Records showed Samson voted on the lease, but the Port Authority later said Samson recused himself and it wasn't accurately recorded.

"Commissioners must avoid not only actual conflicts of interest between their private interests and those of the public, but also the appearance of a conflict," the resolution adopted Thursday read.


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