We have gotten some very good response to the DRPA story, and I am glad that finally people are taking notice of what goes on there. At a time when Governor Christie is looking to force local governments to spend less by imposing a 2% cap on local spending, it only seems right that the folks at the Delaware River Port Authority get their fiscal house in order as well. The salaries and car allowances are quite high given the times we are living in. And it’s a bit outrageous that these board members and officers don’t seem to feel as though they need to follow their own rules.
I wanted to take a minute to talk about process. You should only know what I went through to get basic information that should be readily available to the public.
To begin with, The Compact ( passed by Congress ) establishing the DRPA which lays out most of the ground rules is for some inexplicable reason not available online. It’s not on the agency’s website, and it’s not easily tracked down anywhere. Same is true of the DRPA’s Bylaws. I had to call in a favor and have the documents located by searching a legal database ( yes, it’s nice having well-compensated friends at high-powered law firms…it only helps to accentuate my own inferiority complex about making a public salary ). Anyway, once we got a hold of them, it was pretty clear that numerous violations were regularly occurring. We drew that conclusion based on the information we had already received from whistle blowers which could then be corroborated by the black and white rules spelled out in the documents.
When I reached out to Public Information Officer Ed Kosuba, he initially told me to simply ask him for the information we needed. So, I requested verification of Public Safety Director Mike Joyce’s salary, the minutes for the last five triennial elections of officers, and the last two 5-year audits which are required under the compact. 24-hours later I received an email back with forms to fill out in order to get those very documents we had requested. Sensing this was merely a delay tactic, NJN went through the motions of filling out the requisite paperwork. Two weeks later we were given an incomplete package of what we requested…and were being asked to pay the DRPA $63 for the copies. Against my better judgment, we paid them. The less-than-fulfilled request was accompanied by a letter stating that DRPA is not subject to New Jersey’s open public record law ( OPRA ), but that they would try to accommodate us anyway.
Gee, thanks guys – we really appreciate it.
And I should note that by giving us the incomplete info, I felt like it was some kind of an attempt at a Jedi mind trick – like when Obi Wan tells the Storm Troopers that “these are not the droids you are looking for.” Like I am just gonna, you know, drop it.
Anyway, the long and short of it is this: The DRPA is a public agency. Their lack of transparency is disturbing. For too long many of these bi-state agencies and other New Jersey boards, commissions and authorities have operated as personal fiefdoms for guys who wanna live fat on the public’s dime. Governor Christie rightly targeted them before taking office and shortly after becoming Governor. Let’s hope he does or says something about the DRPA.
DRPA CEO John Matheussen is up for re-appointment on July 17. It would be a great disservice to the toll payers of the Philly-metro region, and by extension the citizens of New Jersey, if he were to be re-upped in that post without having to explain what has been allowed to go on there.