Port Authority deputy executive director to step down
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie's top hire at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Friday she is stepping down after just over a year at the embattled agencyPort Authority deputy executive director to step down , where sweeping reforms are underway that will eventually eliminate her position.
Deputy Executive Director Deborah Gramiccioni said her last day will be February 1, after which she will become the executive director of New York University Law School's Center on the Administration of Criminal Law.
Gramiccioni was hired by Christie, her former boss at the U.S. attorney's office in Newark, in December 2013. She replaced Bill Baroni, a former New Jersey state senator appointed by Christie, who had resigned amid revelations about apparently politically-motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge three months earlier.
The fallout from the lane closings and other criticisms of the powerful bistate agency over a perceived lack of accountability and oversight has produced a long period of soul-searching and numerous recommendations for reform.
Among those is a restructuring that would scrap the current system in which the governor of New York appoints the executive director and vice chairman and the governor of New Jersey appoints the chairman and deputy executive director.
On Friday, Port Authority chairman John Degnan said in a statement that the deputy's position will be eliminated this year when the agency adopts recommendations from a panel commissioned by Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"I had an idea that I might be the last person to hold the job as it's currently configured, and I embraced that," Gramiccioni said. "Structural change is something I've been pushing for since I've arrived. It's a good thing, and we shouldn't be afraid of it."
In a statement, Christie called Gramiccioni "a dedicated public servant to the people of New Jersey and this region, and plainly one of the best people I know."
The lane closings are the subject of investigations by the U.S. attorney's office and a state legislative committee. This week, federal prosecutors subpoenaed additional materials pertaining to Baroni's testimony before the legislative committee in November 2014, in which he characterized the lane closings as part of a traffic study.
A subsequent release of emails and text messages revealed a Christie aide, since fired, apparently orchestrating the closures with David Wildstein, a Port Authority official hired by Baroni who has since resigned.
The Port Authority also is being investigated by the Manhattan district attorney's office and the Securities and Exchange Commission over whether it misrepresented in bond documents its decision to dedicate $1.8 billion in funding to overhaul the decaying Pulaski Skyway.
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