By David Madden and Robin Rieger
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey’s state comptroller has reviewed the inner operations of the Delaware River Port Authority, saying his office has found a pattern of waste and mismanagement that cost the bi-state agency millions of dollars over a number of years.
The report delves deeper into the alleged abuses that have been mostly corrected and/or eliminated already — like free EZ Passes for employees and funding economic development programs outside the DRPA’s core mission.
And according to State Comptroller Matthew Boxer, who released his report into questionable DRPA practices on Thursday, the July increase to $5 tolls on Delaware River Port Authority bridges could have been delayed if the agency hadn’t wasted toll revenue.
And Boxer told CBS3 that, “The fact that tolls were being raised while this was going on is one of the troubling aspects for us.”
READ: DRPA Report
But there is a new concern, according to state comptroller Matthew Boxer: insurance contracts and commissions.
“There were a series of non-transparent and questionable payments between and among DRPA’s various insurance brokers that did not correspond to brokerage services that were actually provided,” Boxer told KYW Newsradio today.
In addition to $440 million in unrelated economic development money spent by the DRPA, toll money was donated to different causes, including over $59,000 to the Philadelphia Tribune for half page ads.
Other expenses included $15,000 on tickets for three galas and $5000 for lacrosse tickets and VIP passes.
“In many instances, commissioners were part of the problem. That’s not to say all the commissioners were,” said Boxer.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia Tribune President and CEO Robert Bogle said he spent 14 years as a commissioner.
“I never asked anyone to place an ad in the Tribune. My sales staff might have,” said Bogle.
Some payments were funneled through one firm to another owned by South Jersey power broker George Norcross, even though Norcross’ firm did no work for the DRPA.
Many who use the bridges regularly are upset.
“If it’s not going to the bridge, then give it back,” said Shakera Dye, of Camden, who uses the Ben Franklin Bridge daily.
The DRPA says reform is taking place. Going forward, the agency says, it is adopting fixed-fee commissions and a competitive contract award process.
Read the NJ Comptroller’s Full Report on the DRPA (.pdf format)