Sam­son leav­ing Port Author­ity af­ter re­port blasts agency

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

Port Author­ity Chair­man David Sam­son re­signed af­ter a re­port com­mis­sioned by New Jersey Gover­nor Chris Christie to probe lane clos­ings at the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge rec­om­mended changes at the agency.

Sam­son, ap­pointed by Christie to the Port Author­ity of New York and New Jersey, which runs the span, was linked by e-mails to Septem­ber traf­fic jams at the foot of the bridge in Fort Lee, whose mayor didn't en­dorse the gover­nor's re-elec­tion. Sam­son has been want­ing to step down for a year, Christie told re­porters yes­ter­day in Tren­ton, say­ing he asked him to stay on through the elec­tion.

"He's 74 years old and he's tired," Christie said at his first press con­fer­ence in 11 weeks. Sam­son's res­igna- tion, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, was "no shock," Christie said. Sam­son said the move was needed to al­ter the di­rec­tion of the agency, which needs "fun­da­men­tal struc­tural change," the Repub­li­can gover­nor said.

Sam­son's res­ig­na­tion came a day af­ter an in­ter­nal re­port com­mis­sioned by Christie's ad­min­is­tra­tion blamed for­mer aides and al­lies for the traf­fic jam and cleared the gover­nor of wrong­do­ing. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, the New York law firm that con­ducted the re­view, didn't in­ter­view Sam­son. The tax­payer-funded re­port cost about $1 mil­lion at $650 an hour, ac­cord­ing to Demo­cratic law­mak­ers. It delved into the pri­vate lives of aides blamed for the jams, while pre­sent­ing the gover­nor as an ac­tive chief ex­ec­u­tive ded­i­cated to the truth and wounded by be­trayal.

Pat Foye, the author­ity's ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor ap­pointed by New York Gover­nor Andrew Cuomo, told the New York Daily News in Fe­bru­ary that Sam­son lacked moral author­ity to run the agency. Foye de­clined to com­ment on Sam­son's res­ig­na­tion, said Steve Cole­man, a spokesman. Christie said the re­port's sug­ges­tion of split­ting the agency be­tween New York and New Jersey might have merit.

The 51-year-old po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­date has avoided re­porters' ques­tions since the scan­dal erupted in Jan­uary, im­per­il­ing a pos­si­ble 2016 cam­paign. He said yes­ter­day that he wanted to gather facts be­fore hold­ing an­other news con­fer­ence. The gover­nor sparred with re­porters dur­ing the ses­sion, call­ing ques­tions that dis­pleased him ridicu­lous and "in­firm."

Christie's pop­u­lar­ity across the U.S. fell to 32 per­cent in a Bloomberg Na­tional Poll con­ducted March 7-10. It was 50 per­cent in June, about two months be­fore Brid­get Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff, sent an Aug. 13 email to David Wild­stein, a Christie ally at the Port Author­ity, that said: "Time for some traf­fic prob­lems in Fort Lee." Wild­stein, who or­dered the clos­ings, replied: "Got it."

The last time Christie took re­porters' ques­tions was on Jan. 9, when he presided over an al­most twohour news con­fer­ence, apol­o­giz­ing and deny­ing any knowl­edge of a plot to close lanes as an act of re­tal­i­a­tion. Christie said then that he had fired Kelly and sev­ered ties with Bill Stepien, his for­mer cam­paign man­ager. Wild­stein re­signed.

Kelly and Wild­stein or­dered the clos­ings for "un­clear ul­te­rior mo­tives," the in­ter­nal re­port con­cluded. Both de­clined to be in­ter­viewed by lawyers for Christie's ad­min­is­tra­tion. Sep­a­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tions are also be­ing con­ducted by US At­tor­ney Paul Fish­man and state law­mak­ers. In one mes­sage ob­tained un­der law­mak­ers' sub­poena, Wild­stein told Kelly that Sam­son was "help­ing us to re­tal­i­ate" for New York of­fi­cials' eas­ing the jam on what would have been its fifth day.

Sam­son, for­merly New Jersey's at­tor­ney gen­eral, also has been the sub­ject of re­ports in the New York Times (NYT), the Star-Ledger of Ne­wark and other news­pa­pers about Port Author­ity votes on projects with ties to his law firm, Wolff & Sam­son.

Christie said Jan. 9 that he spoke to him for two hours the day be­fore and be­lieved that he knew noth­ing about the is­sue.

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