Patrick Foye is right: David Samson no longer has the moral authority required to serve as chairman of the Port Authority. He should step down, immediately. In fact, he should have quit days if not weeks ago, long before U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a subpoena as part of a probe into Mr. Samson’s public and private business dealings.
Mr. Foye is, of course, one of the heroes of the tawdry scandal known as Bridgegate. As executive director of the P.A.—an appointee of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—Mr. Foye reacted as any true public servant should have when he learned of the now-infamous lane closures in Fort Lee. He demanded to know what in the world was going on and quickly ordered the nonsense halted.
Mr. Samson didn’t call off the dogs. Instead, he wanted to find out if Mr. Foye was behind press coverage of the monster traffic jams.
When that story broke, Mr. Samson should have submitted his resignation on the spot. But he didn’t. And his friend Chris Christie has stood by him, saying that he “strongly” and “firmly” supports Mr. Samson’s continued presence at the Port. No reporters have been able to ask him why he feels so strongly about Mr. Samson—the governor, who used to hold a press conference every 15 minutes, hasn’t sparred with the press since his marathon session 62 days ago.
Perhaps, by holding onto his job, Mr. Samson in a weird way has performed a public service. He has inspired journalists and now a federal prosecutor to investigate the ties between Mr. Samson’s law firm, Wolff & Samson, and all manner of special interests in New Jersey.
Those ties are various and sundry, and they have added considerably to Wolff & Samson’s revenue. According to an exhaustive report in the Asbury Park Press, Wolff & Samson has collected more than $12 million in government-related work over the last three years. Worse yet, Mr. Samson’s private business interests and his public duties with the Port have, to say the least, come into conflict. To cite just one example, he voted to fund a massive renovation of the PATH station in Harrison, N.J., even though his firm represented a developer of an apartment complex adjacent to the station.
Mr. Samson’s tangle of public and private interests, which might have gone unnoticed if not for Bridgegate, points to something larger about the scandal in New Jersey.
As a candidate in 2009, Mr. Christie promised change. He promised that he would shake up a state exhausted by crooked pols and smelly deals. But what he’s done is shake all the change out of New Jersey’s pockets and hand it to his cronies.
What has become clear is that change is necessary at the Port Authority, beginning with a change in the office of the chairman. Mr. Samson has lost all credibility; indeed, he has become something of a laughingstock. When the press revealed that he voted in favor of a drastic reduction in rent for a parking-lot operator who had the foresight to hire, yes, Wolff & Samson, a bedraggled Port Authority spokesperson insisted that the “aye” vote had been recorded in error and that the official record would be changed to indicate that the chairman abstained.
The new lease, which Mr. Samson approved and then didn’t, by the way, reduced payments from about $900,000 per year to $1. That’s not a typo. The parking-lot operator, NJ Transit, paid Mr. Samson’s firm $1.5 million for its advice. If nothing else, it shows that the people at NJ Transit, best known for leaving trains in lowland areas during superstorms, made a shrewd investment in hiring the chairman’s firm.
Moral authority? Mr. Foye is right. It’s gone. Mr. Samson must resign.