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Port Authority Oversight Committee Holds Meeting

Meeting of Port Authority Oversight Committee (credit: Peter Haskell/WCBS 880)

Meeting of Port Authority Oversight Committee (credit: Peter Haskell/WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP)The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey‘s new oversight committee composed of academics and public policy experts met Monday to discuss reforms.

The embattled agency has been under fire since revelations about lane closings at the George Washington Bridge last fall. But it had come under criticism before that for issues surrounding toll hikes in 2011.

As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, there seems to be little disagreement on the point that the Port Authority is broken. But some on the panel said that doesn’t mean the agency should be dismantled.

“I said very clearly I think that Port Authority can be fixed and should be fixed,” committee member Martin Robins said.

He said he thinks a big problem is meddling by politicians.

“Senior management of one camp became free to dispense to staff divisive directions creating confusion at minimum, and fear at worst,” said Robins.

In recent months, questions have been raised over alleged conflicts of interest involving some board members.

The experts on Monday’s panel are urging the agency to reduce the role of political influence. One suggestion is to remove some appointment power from the two states’ governors.

An outside audit called the agency a “challenged and dysfunctional” organization in 2012.

“We’re not wasting the crisis. Our view is to use it to force change,” acting Port Authority Board Chairman Scott Rechler said.

Some of the suggestions for improvement include focusing on core missions like transportation, reducing patronage jobs and creating more transparency, Haskell reported.

“That seems to be at the heart of what’s wrong here,” Oversight Committee Member Robert Yaro said of patronage jobs.

Since the lane closing scandal unfolded, four officials at the Port Authority have resigned.

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