- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s vote regarding a parking lot near the Lincoln Tunnel that has drawn scrutiny over a possible conflict of interest was improperly recorded, according to a legal review by the agency made public this week.

In a letter dated Wednesday, a Port Authority lawyer notified chairman David Samson that a review concluded Samson meant to recuse himself from the February 2012 vote approving a lease for the New Jersey Transit park-and-ride lot.

According to a report in The Record, Samson’s law firm was paid up to $1.5 million by NJ Transit for legal advice on the transit agency’s plans to maximize parking lot revenues.

“We reviewed your records with respect to that meeting,” Darrell Buchbinder wrote. “On the basis of that review, I have concluded that you intended to recuse on that matter, that you made that intention known to Port Authority staff in connection with the routine preparation for that meeting, and, through clerical inadvertence, your recusal was not correctly noted in the Board Minutes with respect to that matter. As such, we will correct the Board Minutes accordingly to reflect your recusal.”

The Record first reported the contents of Buchbinder’s letter to Samson.

Buchbinder’s letter didn’t specify what records were reviewed. The Port Authority didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Minutes from the February 2012 Port Authority meeting that were approved and entered into the record at the following month’s board meeting show Samson voting to approve the parking lot lease along with five other Port Authority commissioners. One commissioner, William Schuber, recused himself. The vote approved the continuation of NJ Transit’s lease of the 14-acre lot for “a nominal cost,” which The Record reported was $1 a year.

Samson is among numerous people subpoenaed by a New Jersey legislative committee over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge last fall that appear to have been engineered by an aide to Gov. Chris Christie and David Wildstein, a Christie ally at the Port Authority.

Samson, a Christie appointee to the bistate agency, has been linked to a separate accusation that Christie’s administration used political pressure to get a Hoboken redevelopment project approved. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer claimed last month that two members of Christie’s Cabinet tried to link the city’s Superstorm Sandy recovery aid to her support of the project. The developer, The Rockefeller Group, was represented by Samson’s firm.