Gov. Rendell accepts 'lion's share of blame' for DRPA failures

Posted: July 31, 2010

Gov. Rendell accepted the "lion's share of the blame" Friday for the Delaware River Port Authority's past failure to adopt changes that he is pushing for now.

"If you're looking to point the finger of blame here, I think I share a good portion of that blame," Rendell said at a rest stop on I-95 in Bucks County. He was there to announce a bistate plan to rebuild the Scudder Falls Bridge.

"As governor, it is my responsibility to oversee all authorities, and some of these changes should have been made earlier," Rendell said.

The governor also credited DRPA Commissioner John Dougherty, a Philadelphia labor leader with whom he has had an on-again, off-again political relationship, for bringing attention to possible abuses at the bistate agency.

The DRPA, which oversees four bridges and the PATCO line, has faced a public uproar following revelations that the then-public safety director, Michael Joyce, borrowed another official's free E-ZPass for use by his daughter over 18 months.

Rendell and Gov. Christie on Thursday called on the DRPA in separate letters to enact a series of proposals to restore public confidence: ending free tolls for employees and commissioners; strengthening antinepotism and conflict-of-interest policies; and eliminating car allowances and no-bid contracts, among other things.

"They are things that are common sense," said Rendell Friday. "They ought to have been done a while ago. And they will be done to make the operation of the agency more transparent, more open, and more responsive to what the public demands."

But Rendell also said that there had been significant improvements at the DRPA, noting that it had reduced its workforce by 12 percent, wiped out an operating deficit that existed when he became governor in 2003, and kept good bond ratings.

The Pennsylvania governor on Friday sent a second letter to DRPA leaders voicing support for some additional changes suggested by Christie. Those would mandate that all charitable contributions be approved by the board, forbid commissioners and employees to use DRPA time or resources for political activities, and require vendors and their principals to disclose all campaign donations made in the last four years.

In separate remarks Friday, Christie said he and Rendell trusted their proposals would be implemented "in short order."

"These are all paid for with toll money," he said. "This is not paid for by some magic money tree. These are paid for with toll money from the citizens of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"As we move forward, everybody at the DRPA has to be on board," Christie added. "Those people who aren't on board don't belong at the DRPA, whether they're commissioners or employees."


Contact staff writer Maya Rao at 856-779-3220 or mrao@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Adrienne Lu contributed to this article.

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