Judiciary to consider O’Dowd as Health Dept. commissioner, major board appointments Thursday

TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee will interview  several candidates for high-ranking positions on Thursday, including the acting commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Mary O’Dowd, whose husband and father are also highly involved in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, is being interviewed by the panel to replace Poonam Alaigh, who stepped down at the end of March for personal reasons.

Getting the nod from Christie, O’Dowd was promoted from deputy commissioner after serving as chief of staff under Gov. Jon Corzine’s DHSS Commissioner, Heather Howard.

O’Dowd’s husband is Kevin O’Dowd, deputy chief counsel to Christie, and her father is Anthony Marchetta, executive director of the N.J. Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA).

The committee is also interviewing Nelson Ferreira for the N.J. Transportation Trust Fund Authority; George Kolber and Steven Plofker as N.J. Sports and Exposition Commissioners; and Jeffrey Light and Kevin Smith to join the Superior Court.

Ferreira caught flak after it was revealed that his business, Ferreira Construction Co., made a $25,000 donation to Reform Jersey Now, Christie’s issue-advocacy group, around the same time that Ferreira Construction received more than $174 million in contracts with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, as reported by Lisa Fleisher of the Wall Street Journal.

Plofker has been nominated for the spot previously meant to be filled by Bergen County GOP Chairman Bob Yudin, who has not been re-nominated for the position by Christie’s team.

Not being interviewed, but up for appointment just the same, are four men seeking to join the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council: James Rilee, Robert Walton, James Mengucci, and Timothy Dougherty. Christie has been open about the fact that he wants to upend the mission of the council to some extent.

Another non-interviewed appointment is Charles “Chip” Stapleton for the N.J. Maritime Pilot and Docking Pilot Commission. Stapleton was formerly an employee at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey (UMDNJ) and was part of the Star-Ledger’s investigation at UMDNJ in 2005.

According to the paper, Stapleton was paid $1 million in salary for over a decade, although officials could not provide any memos, letters, or reports that he generated during his employment.

Also, Politifax poobah Nick Acocella is up for appointment to the N.J. Hall of Fame Advisory Commission.

The other appointees: Joanne Nyikita, Burlington County Superintendent of Elections; George Conway, Sussex County Board of Taxation; Louis Batelli, Passaic County Board of Taxation; Barbara Sobel, Kean University Board of Trustees; Rose Cali, Montclair State University Board of Trustees; Henry Coleman, Ph.D., New Jersey City University  Board of Trustees; and Thomas North, judge of the Westville National Park Joint Municipal Court.

Judiciary to consider O’Dowd as Health Dept. commissioner, major board appointments Thursday