TRENTON - A newspaper's review of records shows the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has hired 50 people recommended by Gov. Christie's administration in the last two years.
The review by The Record, of Bergen County, N.J., found that those holding the jobs - which range from federal affairs director to toll collector - earn about $4 million in annual salaries. Those who spoke with the newspaper said they were qualified for their positions.
The jobholders include the former vice chairman of the Passaic County Republican Committee, the former director of the state Republican Committee, and the son of former Republican Assembly Speaker Garabed "Chuck" Haytaian.
Others include a gourmet-food broker who became an $85,000-a-year financial analyst, and an author and actor who was named employment-publications editor - a three-day-a-week post that pays $50,000 and provides full benefits.
Port Authority officials defended the appointments, noting they had sharply reduced staffing overall and had reduced their payroll $10.5 million over the last two years. The authority's 6,800-person workforce is the smallest it has been in 40 years, and its operating budget has remained flat for several years, they said.
Personnel changes at the agency "are ordinary, customary, and necessary" when new governors take office, said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak.
"They are also the prerogative of any new Port Authority administration as it imposes new priorities, vision, and direction for the agency," Drewniak said. "In that regard, we are extremely pleased to see the Port Authority continue to address the mismanagement that occurred under prior administrations."
The Port Authority is a complex agency that spends billions a year to run the region's airports, PATH trains, seaports, and Hudson River crossings. The governors of New York and New Jersey select the 12-member board of commissioners and the agency's top two executives, but they have no official authority to hire other employees.
The list of Christie administration referrals was provided by the Port Authority as part of a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed in federal court in Newark. Hannah Shostack, an appointee of former Gov. Jon Corzine's administration, claims she was pushed out for political reasons. In the suit, her attorneys requested a list of Christie referrals hired by the Port Authority.
Eleven of the employees on the list donated to Christie's gubernatorial campaign or had an immediate relative who did, campaign finance records show. Five came directly from Christie's administration or worked on his campaign, not including former state Attorney General Paula Dow, who was recently appointed to the Port Authority and is not on the list.
Others had ties to Christie's top appointees at the agency, Board of Commissioners Chairman David Samson, who is unpaid, and Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.