(Updates with Cuomo spokesman in fifth paragraph.)
Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he asked Attorney General Paula Dow to step down to take a temporary regulatory role at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which he accused of “gross mismanagement.”
Christie said Dow will be first deputy general counsel at the agency, which operates the George Washington Bridge and other Hudson River crossings between New Jersey and New York. She will be replaced by chief counsel Jeff Chiesa, Christie, 49, told reporters today during a press conference in Trenton.
The Port Authority, and its former Executive Director Chris Ward, have come under criticism by Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for spending on overtime and rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. The governors ordered a $2 million independent audit of the agency, which in September raised bridge and tunnel tolls by 56 percent over five years.
“The Port Authority has a long history of grossly mismanaging its finances and its now facing an aggressive audit process,” said Christie, a first-term Republican and former federal prosecutor. “It’s clear the authority needs greater on- the-ground oversight to make sure tollpayers’ interests are being protected.”
Christie and Cuomo, a first-term Democrat, share control of the Port Authority. Christie said he doesn’t need approval to give Dow the job there. Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Cuomo, said he’ll “defer to Governor Christie” for comment on the appointment. Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the agency, declined to comment on the announcement.
Dow, a Democrat and former Essex County prosecutor, was one of the governor’s first Cabinet appointments. Dow, who also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney under Christie, said the Port Authority “needs a lot of attention.”
“Attorney General Dow will be in a unique position to bring her law-enforcement experience to quickly recommend structural and procedural changes that will end the abuse and waste that has marked the authority’s past,” Christie said. “I want her to look at legal operations there which have obviously failed us.”
Chiesa’s nomination will be submitted this week to lawmakers for consideration, and he’ll take over the Law and Public Safety Department on Jan. 1, Christie said. Dow will move to the Port Authority at the same time, he said.
The governor said he also will nominate Dow to be an Essex County Superior Court judge after she finishes at the Port Authority. Christie said the nomination is a “peace offering” to Essex County lawmakers who have held up his appointees from that region.
Democrats control both houses of the Legislature. Christie has called on Democratic Senators Dick Codey of Roseland and Ron Rice of Newark to “stop the abuse of senatorial courtesy,” which has allowed them to block his appointments.
Codey and Rice supported Dow’s appointment as attorney general. Christie said he anticipates Dow will receive speedy approval for the judicial post based on her resume and experience, and that she will be confirmed while she is working at the authority, which also operates the three major New York- area airports.
--With assistance from Freeman Klopott in Albany. Editors: Stacie Servetah, Mark Schoifet
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