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Christie taps former attorney general to chair Port Authority

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Governor Chris Christie announces the nomination of John Degnan to serve as the new Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey during a press conference at the Statehouse in Trenton on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.
Governor Chris Christie announces the nomination of John Degnan to serve as the new Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey during a press conference at the Statehouse in Trenton on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. - ((Governor's Office/Tim Larsen))

Gov. Chris Christie will nominate a former state attorney general to chair the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Christie said Tuesday at a press conference in Trenton.

John Degnan, a Democrat, served as Attorney General under former Gov. Brendan Byrne from 1978 to 1981. He later went to work for the Warren-based Chubb Corp. in 1990 as a senior vice president and general counsel, before retiring in 2010 as vice chairman and chief operating officer of the property and casualty insurer.

If confirmed by the Senate, Degnan's chairmanship would come at a turbulent time for the bistate agency as it continues to deal with a number of hot-button issues, from the ongoing fallout from the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal to a recent report that the federal Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into the state's possible misuse of Port Authority tax-exempt bonds to fund the Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation project.

"At a time when there are significant challenges at the Port Authority, both to its mission and to the purpose that it serves for the people of the region, I wanted someone with unquestioned credentials," Christie said.

The governor later added that he felt Degnan was "a person of unquestioned integrity."

Degnan did not take questions from reporters as he has yet to go before the Senate for consideration, but said in a brief statement that he plans to come into the position "without any preconceived ideas."

"Much has been written about what is needed at the Port Authority and much of it sounds reasonable," Degnan said. "But that is from the outside looking in and all I can honestly say right now is that I am open to the best ideas we have."

Christie said he hopes the Senate will take up Degnan's consideration soon.

"I look forward to a swift consideration by the Senate because we need leadership at the Port Authority," Christie said.

The position became vacant last month following the resignation of David Samson, another former state Attorney General, amid increased scrutiny in the wake of the bridge scandal and a number of allegations regarding conflicts between Samson's business interests and government work.

The governor again defended Samson Tuesday, noting that he was "very" confident that his business dealings were appropriate.

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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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