Congressmen: Appoint inspector for DRPA

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady is the only one among 19 members of the Pa. House delegation who faces no reelection challenge this year.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady is the only one among 19 members of the Pa. House delegation who faces no reelection challenge this year.
Posted: September 28, 2010

Two area congressmen have introduced legislation to compel the Delaware River Port Authority to install an independent inspector general.

U.S. Reps. Robert Brady (D., Pa.) and Robert Andrews (D., N.J.) said Tuesday an inspector general would improve accountability and credibility at the troubled DRPA.

"The public needs to know that the dollars they are spending are being spent on the right things," Andrews said at a news conference at the Camden headquarters of the DRPA.

An inspector general would conduct an annual audit of the DRPA, issue semiannual financial reports, and provide annual reports to the governors and U.S. representatives from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The inspector general would also be empowered to investigate complaints of mismanagement or corruption.

The bill, introduced Thursday by Brady and cosponsored by Andrews, also would give Pennsylvania's governor the same veto power over DRPA actions that New Jersey's governor has. It would establish a citizens' advisory board, which the DRPA board voted earlier this month to do. And it would give the federal government a seat on the DRPA board, with an appointment by the U.S. defense secretary.

The DRPA is a bistate authority, with its powers established by a compact approved by the legislatures and governors of both states, as well as Congress and the president.

Brady's bill would withdraw the consent of Congress for the DRPA's compact in one year if the authority did not take the four steps outlined in the measure.

But Brady said that if the DRPA took those actions on its own, the proposed new law would be unnecessary.

Other efforts are under way in the legislatures of New Jersey and Pennsylvania to amend the DRPA's charter, to remove its power to spend money on "economic development" and to give state lawmakers a bigger role in its governance.

Brady said his bill could be amended to deal with those concerns, too.

"Anything they come up with has to come through us," Brady said. " ... This is our agency, and we're not going to give it up."

DRPA chief executive John Matheussen said he supported the proposed changes in the new bill and will urge the DRPA board to enact them.

An inspector general, appointed by majority vote of the board, would provide "an additional layer of accountability," Matheussen said. He said many of the auditing functions of an inspector general were already being done by the DRPA's internal auditors.

The DRPA operates the Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross toll bridges and the PATCO commuter rail line between Philadelphia and South Jersey.

One DRPA board member showed up for Tuesday's news conference: Philadelphia labor leader John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty. He said he was "glad the federal government is taking an interest in the DRPA," adding he would send Brady and Andrews copies of documents that Dougherty said would let "them see what a swamp this place is."

Dougherty has been an outspoken advocate for changes in the way the DRPA operates, and he has called for Matheussen's dismissal. He was one of two board members voting to dismiss the chief executive in a 12-2 vote earlier this month.

The Brady bill is H. R. 6202; it has been referred to the House's judiciary committee and the transportation and infrastructure committee.


Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com

|
|
|
|
|