New rules make DRPA more open, accountable

Posted: November 22, 2012

The Delaware River Port Authority board today approved reform measures designed to make the agency more accountable and efficient.

The latest steps, including an open-records policy and tighter rules on employee expense accounts, are part of a continuing move to make changes requested more than two years ago by the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

A final flurry of changes, including an ethics policy and rules on political contributions by contractors, are expected next month to implement the rest of the governors' reforms.

The DRPA's new inspector general, Thomas W. Raftery 3d, prodded the agency into action with a report last May that critcized the DRPA for not putting many of the reforms into practice.

In 2010, the DRPA board responded to demands by Gov. Christie and then-Gov. Rendell with a well-publicized set of new rules designed to reduce patronage and insider-dealing and improve transparency and public accountability.

The board action today followed similar votes in recent months to finally implement those reforms.

In other action, the DRPA board authorized the installation of infra-red security cameras in the Philadelphia and Camden tunnels of the PATCO commuter rail line.

The cameras will be paid for with a $1 million grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security and will be installed by Schneider Electric Buildings America, Inc., of Palatine, Ill.

The cameras will monitor poorly lighted areas of the rail tunnels, away from the stations, "to enhance greater visibility in vulnerable areas in the PATCO tunnel system," the authorizing resolution said.

In a step that may augur movement in the DRPA's stalled labor negotations with its police force, the board established a six-member labor committee and took the unusual step of selecting two prominent outside lawyers to advise it.

The two lawyers are William Tambussi of Brown & Connery in Westmont, who regularly represents the Camden County Democratic Party and its leader, George Norcross, and Paul S. Lewis of Stevens & Lee in Valley Forge, who represents management clients in employment disputes.

Tambussi is defending the DRPA in a federal lawsuit filed in April by the agency's police officers.

The police are asking the court to order binding arbitration in their long-running contract dispute with the agency.

The DRPA's 131 patrol officers, sergeants and corporals have been working under terms of a contract that expired Dec. 31, 2009.

The police - members of FOP Penn-Jersey Lodge 30 - have a long history of rocky labor relations with the DRPA.

Their last contract was approved in November 2008, almost four years after the previous pact expired. That contract required about 18 months of hearings before an arbitrator.


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

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