Home>Feature>With assurances of retaining O’Toole as chairman, Senate Judiciary unanimously advanced three Port Authority nominees

Left to right: Rob Menendez, Michelle Richardson, Dana Martinotti and Kevin O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Photo: NJ Globe.)

With assurances of retaining O’Toole as chairman, Senate Judiciary unanimously advanced three Port Authority nominees

Full confirmation vote expected on June 1

By Nikita Biryukov, May 13 2021 2:39 pm

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously released three nominees to the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Thursday.

Dana Martinotti, Michelle Richardson and Robert Menendez Jr., the son of New Jersey’s senior U.S. Senator, are expected to see a vote before the full Senate during the chamber’s June 1 voting session.

A fourth nominee, Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe, did not appear before the Judiciary Committee Thursday due to an unforeseen personal matter. He’s set to come back before the panel on June 1 and is expected to be confirmed that day.

The chairman already holds a seat on the powerful bi-state agency’s board.

Each of the nominees that came before the panel Thursday committed to keeping Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole, a former state senator, and Executive Director Rick Cotton in place when pressed by State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa).

Commissioners typically serve six-year terms, though Thursday’s nominees won’t get quite that long on the board.

Richardson is filling Commissioner Richard Bagger’s seat on the board. Bagger was originally named to the board by Gov. Chris Christie in 2012. That means Richardson will hold the seat until June 30, 2024.

Martinotti’s tenure won’t be nearly as long. She was nominated to fill Caren Turner’s unexpired term. Turner resigned in 2018 after brandishing a Port Authority badge during a traffic stop in an attempt to shield her adult daughter from police.

Turner resigned over the incident and was later censured for her behavior. Her unexpired term comes to an end in the middle of next year, meaning Martinotti will essentially serve a one-year term if confirmed.

Menendez has been named to McCabe’s seat. That term won’t expire until June 2025.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and State Sen. Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) were pleased to see two women nominated to the Port Authority Board, citing broad underrepresentation on public boards and commissions.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced State Supreme Court Associate Justice Lee Solomon’s nomination for tenure. Like the Port Authority nominees, Solomon’s interview before the panel was swift, taking only a few minutes.

He was met with praise from the bipartisan panel but demurred when asked whether he supported raising the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70.

That decision, Solomon said, lay with the legislature and the governor.

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