At a monthly Port Authority board meeting on Wednesday, local
residents and several legislators said David Samson's leadership as
chairman has been marred by last September's politically-motivated
lane closings at the George Washington Bridge as well as an ongoing
probe into possible conflicts of interests between his private law
firm and official Port Authority dealings.
The U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey has issued a subpoena for
Port Authority documents related to Samson, a close political ally
of New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, and the votes on
two bridge contracts worth nearly $3 billion, an official with
knowledge of the matter who asked not to be named told Reuters on
The probe will focus on a possible conflict of interest when two
construction companies with ties to Samson's private law firm, Wolff
& Samson, were awarded the government contracts.
The federal prosecutor has separately opened an investigation into
whether laws were broken when two Port Authority officials in
concert with two Christie aides closed entrance lanes to the bridge
in Fort Lee, New Jersey, tying up traffic as political retribution
against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, who declined to support
Christie's re-election bid.
At the meeting on Wednesday, local officials and New Jersey
residents demanded the board provide more answers about the bridge
scandal and urged Samson to step down amid the federal probes
engulfing the agency.
"This is behavior that's not acceptable," James Tedesco, a lawmaker
from Bergen County, where the lane closures originated, told the
Port Authority board. "It is unconscionable for you to sit idly by
and to not address what took place."
Samson recused himself from Wednesday's meeting shortly after it
started noting potential conflicts of interest in discussions
related to reconstruction of the World Trade Center and airport
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Samson's law firm did not respond to an email seeking comment about
the conflict of interest probe.
"Today I came here to ask Mr. Samson to resign," said Cassandra
Dock, a resident of Newark. "Tell Mr. Samson his Goliath is here."
Last month, Samson publicly apologized on behalf of the Port
Authority for the lane closures, saying the four-day shutdown was
triggered by rogue officials who have since left the agency.
"I cannot allow this agency to be mischaracterized by the actions of
a few individuals," he said.
Port Authority Commissioner David Steiner on Wednesday said he
supported Samson as well as the agency.
Christie has also said he "strongly" backs Samson, a former state
attorney general and a Christie appointee at the Port Authority.
Christie has adamantly denied any knowledge of the scheme and
dismissed the two aides, but the scandal has dogged his once soaring
popularity and threatened to tarnish his reputation ahead of an
expected bid for the White House in 2016.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and G. Crosse)
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