Amid roiling politics at DRPA, a high-profile resignation

Posted: July 28, 2010

The discord among leaders of the Delaware River Port Authority claimed its first body yesterday as Mike Joyce, the agency's chief safety officer, resigned.

Joyce was suspended last week for three days and forced to pay $600 for the unauthorized use of an E-ZPass transponder assigned to another agency official.

DRPA spokesman Ed Kasuba confirmed Joyce's resignation yesterday but said he could not offer any more information.

Agency leaders - Chairman John Estey, Vice Chairman Jeff Nash and Executive Director John Matheussen - did not respond to requests for comment.

Joyce, a lawyer who also works for a Cherry Hill law firm, did not respond to a request for comment left for him there.

Joyce, who joined the agency as a deputy general counsel in 2004 and became chief safety officer in 2008, was paid $180,081 plus a $9,000 car allowance.

John Dougherty, a DRPA board member and business manager for Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has fired off a series of angry letters in recent weeks to agency leaders with questions about the E-ZPass issue, hiring practices and executive pay.

Dougherty, who yesterday decried "stupidity and greed and absolute disrespect for taxpayers" at the DRPA, has called for the resignations of Matheussen and general counsel Richard Brown.

"I expect when I get those answers, there will be more resignations at the DRPA," Dougherty said of his many questions.

Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord and Auditor General Jack Wagner, who hold seats on the DRPA board, sent the agency letters in the last week asking some of the same questions.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Chris-tie's staff is also conducting a review of the agency.

Matheussen last week said Joyce told him that John Lawless, the agency's corporate secretary, offered him the E-ZPass transponder in October 2008. Joyce, who had his own DRPA E-ZPass transponder, used the one from Lawless in a family car. Lawless was escorted out of DRPA's headquarters in Camden in April for reasons that remain unclear but is still on the agency's payroll.

DRPA employees below the rank of executive director are allowed 100 free E-ZPass trips per year across one of the four bridges over the Delaware River maintained by the agency, which also runs the PATCO rail line and the RiverLink ferry.

A private firm hired by DRPA to study the Public Safety Department issued a report in September 2008 suggesting that Joyce's $180,081 salary be slashed by $45,000 to $50,000. The firm noted that the DRPA salary was higher than salaries for state police leaders in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Dougherty has recommended four people from Philadelphia for top DRPA public-safety posts, including the brother of one of his union's business agents.

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