More DRPA jobs sought for Pennsylvanians

Board member John Dougherty has proposed changes to make the Delaware River Port Authority more accountable and transparent. He also wants equity in hiring N.J., Pa. residents.
Board member John Dougherty has proposed changes to make the Delaware River Port Authority more accountable and transparent. He also wants equity in hiring N.J., Pa. residents. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 24, 2014

Pennsylvania is not getting its fair slice of the pie at the bistate Delaware River Port Authority, DRPA commissioner and Philadelphia union leader John Dougherty said Thursday.

About 76 percent of the DRPA's employees live in New Jersey, and Dougherty said the agency needs to hire more Pennsylvania workers.

"The numbers are pretty much out of whack," Dougherty, business manager of IBEW Local 98 who represents Pennsylvania auditor general Eugene DePasquale on the DRPA board, said at Thursday's board meeting. "Let's create a process in which some of the higher-paying jobs are more fairly distributed."

The DRPA, long a patronage haven for the politically connected in both states, employs 667 residents of New Jersey, 197 residents of Pennsylvania, and 12 Delaware residents, according to a new accounting by the agency that was requested by Dougherty.

"I have personally carried resumes over here" for Pennsylvania job candidates who have not been hired, Dougherty said.

The DRPA, which operates four toll bridges and the PATCO commuter line between Center City and South Jersey, has its headquarters on the Camden waterfront. The governing board is made up of eight residents of each state.

Jeffrey L. Nash, the Camden County freeholder who is vice chairman of the DRPA board, acknowledged the job disparity but said more New Jersey residents apply for jobs, so more get hired.

Andrew Reilly, a Media lawyer who chairs the board's labor committee, agreed with Dougherty that Pennsylvania deserves more hires.

"If two people are equally qualified, I'm pushing for the Pennsylvania person," Reilly said. "We're just looking for more equity."

A disadvantage for Pennsylvania residents, Pennsylvania board members said, is that many of them have to pay the $5 bridge toll to drive to work each day, since Gov. Christie eliminated free passage for workers in 2010. Most New Jersey residents can drive to work at the DRPA for free since they don't have to cross a bridge.

Union-represented DRPA workers, including toll collectors, train operators, mechanics, and police officers, had their free rides restored in 2011 by an arbitrator, who ruled that Christie violated the provisions of their labor contracts by eliminating the perquisite.

Nash and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who chairs the board, said the DRPA would improve its advertising of job openings to try to increase Pennsylvania hiring.

Dougherty also called for a change in DRPA procedures to make public the political contributions of people and businesses who do work for the DRPA.

Dougherty said auditor general DePasquale would seek next month to revise the rule created in 2012 that exempted vendors' political contributions from public disclosure.

Contractors doing or seeking business with DRPA must disclose to the agency any political contributions made in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. But the DRPA withholds those reports from the public.

Cawley said the DRPA board would consider "what we may need to do additionally . . . as we continue our moves toward transparency and openness."

In other action Thursday, the board gave chief engineer Mike Venuto a raise, promoting him on the executive pay scale to boost his annual salary to $165,000 from the current $136,500.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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