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Ethics complaint filed against Port Authority chairman David Samson

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Port Authority chairman David Samson is the target of a new ethics complaint filed with the state Ethics Commission by the NJWFA.
Port Authority chairman David Samson is the target of a new ethics complaint filed with the state Ethics Commission by the NJWFA. - (File photo)

Port Authority chairman David Samson, also the co-founder of powerful West Orange-based law firm Wolff & Samson, is the target of a new ethics complaint filed with the state Ethics Commission by the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.

The complaint alleges several conflict of interest violations by Samson in his tenure as chairman.

"David Samson repeatedly violated the public trust by weighing in and sometimes voting on matters that enriched clients of his law-firm," NJWFA executive director Analilia Mejia said. "The Port Authority has a $4 billion budget and manages the commutes of millions. It needs an effective leader untainted by scandal."

The complaint alleges violations regarding:

-A vote by Samson to approve a $256 million Harrison PATH station renovation that included land purchases from PSE&G, a Wolff & Samson client, and benefitted BRG Harrison Lofts Urban Renewal LLC, another of the firm's clients and a landowner in the immediate area near the station.

-A Samson vote to reduce the rent on a parking lot that the Port Authority leased to NJ Transit, a Wolff & Samson client, from $900,000 per year to $1.

-Though recusing himself from a vote on the Port Authority's takeover of Atlantic City International Airport from the South Jersey Transportation Authority, a client of his firm, Samson agreeably commented on the proposal at the voting session.

-A Samson vote awarding a $7.5 million contract for the reconstruction of One World Trade Center to Railroad Construction Company, of which a portion is owned by firm client Alfonso Daloisio.

If the commission were to find Samson in violation, the former state Attorney General could face up to $10,000 in fines and be removed from his position and barred from holding public office for up to five years.

"Simply by reviewing David Samson's public acts and statements we have identified four clear violations of the code of ethics he is obligated to uphold," Mejia said. "We are calling on the State Ethics Commission to thoroughly investigate each of these allegations and hold Mr. Samson accountable for his breach of the public trust."

Samson's activities at the Port Authority have come under an increasingly scrutinized light in the fallout of the George Washington Bridge scandal as subpoenaed emails hint at his possible involvement in the lane closures.

Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed Samson, has repeatedly denied that Samson had any role in the matter.

According to a January report by WNYC, business has boomed for Wolff & Samson during Christie's tenure. The firm's lobbying business has gone from doing $40,000 annually prior to Christie's first election to over $1 million per year afterwards and its municipal bond counsel business has quadrupled, going from $2.4 million worth of bond sales under Gov. Jon Corzine to $10.1 billion under Christie.

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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