South Jersey lawyer approved for Rutgers board

Posted: August 20, 2014

TRENTON - The New Jersey Senate on Monday confirmed the nomination of a Haddon Heights lawyer and ally of South Jersey Democrats to Rutgers University's main governing body.

William M. Tambussi's appointment to the board of governors was part of the Democratic-controlled Senate's unanimous approval of a package of Gov. Christie's nominees for various state positions.

Tambussi, 56, replaces former Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr., also of Camden County.

A higher-education restructuring act that passed in 2012 requires one of the governor's eight appointees to the 15-member board to be a Camden County resident.

"Rutgers is a valuable resource for all the residents of New Jersey," Tambussi said. "I think the Camden campus is a very integral part of that. My primary goal is to see the Camden campus is enhanced to its full extent."

That means making sure Rutgers-Camden is fully funded, said Tambussi, a graduate of Dickinson College and the New England School of Law.

Funding is down slightly this fiscal year from last. Some at Rutgers-Camden complain that the South Jersey campus is perpetually underfunded compared with the main New Brunswick one.

A partner at Brown & Connery L.L.P., Tambussi has represented George E. Norcross III, the South Jersey Democratic leader.

Tambussi represents Cooper Health System, where Norcross is chairman of the board of trustees, and the insurance broker Conner Strong & Buckelew, where he is executive chairman.

"It's a great day for Rutgers and the city of Camden, where the school is making such great strides, because Bill is smart and talented, and will be focused on making Rutgers a better school for every New Jersey student," Norcross said in a statement.

Tambussi is also counsel to various county and municipal entities. Christie first nominated him to the board in May 2013.

A dispute between Christie, a Republican, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) over another board nominee held up Tambussi's confirmation. A court recently resolved the matter, clearing the way for Tambussi.

Sweeney has sought to dilute the power of Rutgers' second governing board - the trustees - which serves in a mostly advisory capacity. Last year, Sweeney tried to abolish the board. In June, he pushed for a bill that would expand the board of governors to 19 members, 12 of them political appointees.

Both proposals resulted in considerable backlash from Rutgers activists, who feared a power grab. Sweeney has since backed off.

Tambussi said he agreed "in concept" with the bill to expand the board of governors. "I think they have something to offer," he said of the trustees, but added that Rutgers couldn't get "bogged down with bureaucracy."

Andrew Shankman, a history professor at Rutgers-Camden, described Tambussi's challenge: "In carrying out the needs of the people who put him on the board, he has to always know how to balance those with the needs of Rutgers.

"If he can balance those things, he'll be fine."


aseidman@phillynews.com

856-779-3846

@AndrewSeidman

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