Questions Following NJ DOT Commissioner’s Resignation

NJ Spotlight News | October 5, 2015 | Politics
Michael Aron explores the questions raised by the NJ DOT Commissioner’s resignation.

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

One big question after the Jamie Fox resignation announcement at 5 p.m. last Friday — did Fox do this on his own? Or was he pushed?

We spoke to a handful of people today, including a spokesman for Fox and a person close to Gov. Chris Christie.

The spokesman said Fox informed the governor in mid-August of his desire to go back to the private sector.

The decision had a lot more to do with the Transportation Trust Fund than with Fox’s connection to recent United Airlines media reports.

Remember that Fox was brought in by Christie nearly two years ago to broker a deal that would fix the Transportation Trust Fund.

Fox felt undercut when hiking the gas tax became such an unworkable solution from Christie’s point of view.

Multiple sources say that when Christie — as a presidential candidate — signed the Grover Norquist “no new taxes” pledge this summer, that was the last straw for Fox.

He determined that his skills as a dealmaker were not going to get the TTF the funding it needs, and made the decision to go.

Fox’s spokesman said the governor asked Fox to stay on through the papal visit, and the commissioner did so.

What about the United Airlines stories that Fox has been drawn into? They weren’t a factor at all? We can’t say that definitively, what we can say is this — Fox was United’s lobbyist.

He was at the dinner in New York in 2011 where Port Authority chairman David Samson allegedly broached with United officials the subject of what has become known as the chairman’s flight.

Fox says through his spokesman that that dinner was just a meet and greet and has been mischaracterized and misreported by the press.

WNYC reported last week that as transportation commissioner, Fox tried to persuade some of his Democratic friends in the legislature to shut down their Bridgegate investigation. Fox says that charge is “absurd.”

The Bergen Record reported that Fox presided at a board meeting of the South Jersey Transportation Authority at which a $104,000 penalty against United for canceling its Atlantic City flights was forgiven.

Fox says it was a quick discussion, it was not on the agenda, he didn’t participate, and it was his first board meeting.

Some people we spoke to think Fox resigned in part to fend off some of these stories and that he can do that better as a private citizen than as a member of the Christie cabinet.

So what next for Fox? His resignation takes effect at the end of October.

He won’t say whether or not he’s returning to his old consulting firm, Fox and Shuffler.

The person close to Christie says the governor loves Fox and didn’t want him to leave.

The United story has become a distraction, said the Christie loyalist, but unlike Bridgegate — which it grows out of — it doesn’t involve anyone directly in the Governor’s Office.

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