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Port Authority PBA chief in bridge scandal clarifies his role in union

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The head of the Port Authority’s PBA tonight confirmed a CLIFFVIEW PILOT report that he isn’t resigning as union president amid the George Washington Bridge scandal and is giving his second-in-command a “more active role in aspects of the office’s day-to-day operation.”

Paul Nunziato said there were “mischaracterizations” in media reports about what the union’s executive board was told yesterday.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported last night that Nunziato wasn’t resigning but was “recusing himself as president until further notice while the bridge scandal continues,” according to a Port Authority police source with direct knowledge of the situation.

The source also said that the likely choice to take on day-to-day duties was Robert Morris, the union vice president.

The New York Times later confirmed that “Bobby Mo,” as he is known, was designated to assume the larger role.

Nunziato, in a letter today to Martin Gleeson, the general manager of the Police Labor Relations Board, said: “I am President of the PBA and continue to be fully responsible for operating this organization under the bylaws of the Association.”

“Press reports to the contrary represent mischaracterizations of a briefing given by First Vice President Robert Morris to the Association’s Executive Board,” Nunziato wrote in the letter, a copy of which the union spokesperson sent to CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

CLICK IMAGE at right to read :

“In accordance with the bylaws, I have requested Mr. Morris to take a more active role in aspects of the office’s day-to-day operation,” Nunziato wrote. “Beyond that, these press reports are inaccurate.”

The move comes amid the growing investigation by both the New Jersey Legislature and the Port Authority into lane closures at the bridge.

Nunziato, a 51-year-old department veteran of more than 26 years, was among 30 people served with subpoenas by the bi-partisan state legislative subcommittee investigating the matter.

A story on NJ Spotlight said that Nunziato claimed credit in December for a the bridge traffic study idea as a way to test whether closing two of three toll lanes coming from Fort Lee would improve the flow from Route 80.

More recently, however, questions have been raised about whether union leaders were involved in the initial coverup of the actual lane closures.

As NJ Spotlight reported, Nunziato more than two months ago “concluded that the battle over the lane closures was just the latest chapter in a political rivalry between New Jersey and New York over control of the Port Authority – a contest he compared to the Sharks and the Jets in ‘West Side Story’ — and made it clear his loyalties lay with New Jersey.”

( SEE: Police union implicated in Bridgegate owed hundreds of jobs to Christie )

He hasn’t spoken to the media since.

Gov. Christie has had the authority PBA’s support since promising he’d back an expansion of the department and pledging full support of putting the PAPD in charge of security at the Freedom Tower. Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have veto power over all authority decisions.

Christie also said he’d insist that PAPD police patrol the perimeters of Newark, Kennedy, and LaGuardia airports, as opposed to electronic monitoring that the authority said would cost less and be more effective.

The Port Authority police force, most of whom are represented by Nunziato’s union, increased in size from 1,500 when Christie took office to 1,700 when Nunziato’s union endorsed him last January.

It is scheduled to grow to 2,000 by the end of this year — a key component of a major reorganization plan headed by Port Authority Chief Security Officer Joseph Dunne.

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