Gov. Phil Murphy has picked John Keller as the new executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in a series of moves that included the termination of most of the authority’s legal department.
Keller, currently the deputy chief engineer, is expected to be named tomorrow, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He was the hand-picked choice of state Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who was the executive director from 2008 to 2010 and now chairs the authority.
The current acting executive director, John O’Hern, has been given a soft landing with a new job at New Jersey Transit. Sources say that O’Hern, the son of retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Daniel O’Hern, will make slightly more than his current $134,000-a-year salary in order to facilitate an easy transition.
Gutierrez-Scaccetti has quietly fired Bruce Harris as the general counsel, as well as five staff attorneys. Harris was sent to the authority after the New Jersey Senate rejected Gov. Chris Christie’s nomination of him to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Ann Christine Monica, a career staff attorney, is the acting general counsel –a sign that a new pick will come soon.
Sources say that one move by Gutierrez-Scaccetti — to move nearly all the authority’s legal work to the DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole law firm — was rebuffed by Murphy.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that O’Hern made $175,000 at the Turnpike Authority. His actual salary was $134,000.