N.J., Pa. reps offer bill to revamp DRPA

Posted: September 29, 2010

With all this talk about reforming the Delaware River Port Authority bandied about in recent months, two members of Congress stepped in yesterday to take their turn.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Rob Andrews, of Haddon Heights, and Bob Brady, of Philadelphia, stood before winged statues in the DRPA lobby in Camden yesterday afternoon to discuss a bill that they've introduced to change the bistate agency's federal charter and introduce more transparency amid the recent cloud of questionable spending, political patronage and employee perks.

The key to the legislation, Andrews said, is establishing a DRPA Office of the Inspector General, a position that would be filled with a nonpartisan, nonpolitical person who would conduct annual audits and report to the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

"The public needs to know the dollars they're spending on the DRPA are being spent in the right place," Andrews said.

The bill would also create a citizens' advisory board, made up of 12 nonpolitical members of the public appointed by members of Congress in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as both governors, and a member of the Department of Defense as a non-voting member. Andrews said the DRPA's four bridges were critical to national security.

The bill also would extend veto power on all DRPA resolutions to the governor of Pennsylvania. Currently, only New Jersey's governor has veto power.

Over the past several months, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed several reform-minded resolutions passed by the DRPA's Board of Commissioners, claiming that they didn't go far enough or were in opposition to his demands.

"I thought it was unfair that the governor of New Jersey has the lone veto power and the governor of Pennsylvania, whoever it may be, doesn't," Brady said.

A spokesman for Christie did not return a request for comment from the Daily News.

Brady said Congress was intending to meddle with the DRPA, but since many of the reform efforts would ultimately require changes to the federal charter, he felt that it was time that he and Andrews spoke up.

"The last time I checked, Congress has a very big stick," Brady said.

DRPA's chief executive, John Matheussen, said the role of an independent inspector general, regardless of whether he or she was paid with DRPA funds, would add another level of scrutiny.

Pennsylvania Commissioner John Dougherty, who attended the afternoon news conference, said he was pleased that Congress was getting involved but also wanted to inform Brady and Andrews of past practices that he feels warrant a closer look.

"I'm going to make sure they both get packets," Dougherty said.

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