The DRPA is a politically connected $300-million-a-year agency that operates four Delaware River toll bridges and the PATCO commuter rail line between Philadelphia and South Jersey.
An 18-page "code of ethics and business conduct" was prepared seven years ago by the DRPA's internal auditor at the time, James Lemley. It amended and expanded the agency's 21/2-page code of ethics, which was issued in 1997.
The 2003 version included a conflict-of-interest section that said, among other things, "We must be free of actual, apparent, or potential conflicts of interest when dealing with persons or business entities on behalf of the [DRPA].
"A conflict of interest occurs whenever a commissioner or an employee permits the prospect of direct or indirect personal gain or political advantage to improperly influence his or her judgment or actions in the conduct of authority business."
The revised ethics code was shelved without action by the DRPA management. It was not distributed to the board for review.
Dougherty, a Philadelphia labor leader who has been attacking the DRPA for weeks over conflicts of interest, insider dealing, and lack of transparency, said the expanded ethics policy could have prevented many of the agency's current woes.
"No one informed me or the other DRPA commissioners of the existence of such documents, the implementation of which may have helped the authority avoid some of its recent public embarrassments," Dougherty wrote to DRPA Chief Executive John Matheussen in a letter dated Friday.
"The DRPA's egregious failure to even inform . . . commissioners of the existence of these ethics policies, let alone share them with us, crystallizes why the current management team at the authority must be replaced," he wrote.
Matheussen said Monday that the revised code of ethics was still alive and could be presented to the board for adoption at some point.
He said the ethics revision had been a victim of the DRPA's political standoff in 2006 and 2007, when the board did not meet for 17 months because of a dispute between New Jersey and Pennsylvania over dredging of the Delaware River.
Before the impasse, "the document prepared by Mr. Lemley underwent significant revision and updating by Mr. Lemley and others in anticipation for presentation to the board," Matheussen said in an e-mail Monday. "The board impasse occurred from December 2005 through April 2007.
"During that period, Mr. Lemley retired. The draft policy did not appear on the agenda when the board returned.
"Recently, staff began reviewing these documents again and were discussing possible revisions for board adoption."
Also Monday, Wagner sent a three-page letter to Estey, challenging Estey's suggestion last week that Wagner was a recent arrival to the reform effort.
"The suggestion that I have just jumped on some kind of reform bandwagon is laughable," Wagner wrote. "You are very well aware that since I assumed my position on the board three years ago, my representative and I have actively questioned DRPA actions inside and outside of formal board and caucus meetings and have been diligent in our promotion of transparency, accountability, and good government at the authority."
Wagner said he repeatedly voted against spending toll revenue on "economic development" projects around the region. He said he initially opposed the appointment of Michael Joyce as chief public safety officer last year "on the grounds that he was not qualified to hold the position."
Joyce resigned last month after it was revealed he had borrowed another DRPA executive's free E-ZPass transponder for his daughter to use to attend school in Montgomery County.
Wagner said he agreed not to oppose Joyce's appointment to the $180,081-a-year post "only after receiving personal assurances from you, as board chairman, and others that he was not only qualified, but was, in fact, the best person for the job. Clearly, in light of the recent revelations, our concerns were well founded."
Wagner repeated his suggestion that the board meet before Aug. 18 to consider 16 proposals that Estey sent last week to Christie and Rendell. He warned that "if progress is not made at the August board meeting or shortly thereafter, I will be asking for a change in leadership at the DRPA."
Estey was vacationing Monday and could not be reached immediately for comment on Wagner's letter.
Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum
at 215-854-4587 or email@example.com.