(CNN) - Several speakers at a public meeting of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey called on the agency’s chairman to resign on Wednesday. But David Samson didn’t hear them.
That’s because Samson, who was appointed to the top position by Gov. Chris Christie, recused himself from the matter before the board and said he shouldn’t be present.
“I therefore turn over to the vice chairman the conclusion of today’s meeting,” Samson said before walking out.
Many in the packed hearing room were surprised by his abrupt departure.
Samson is under fire on two fronts: Questions have been raised about his law firm’s business ties to the agency he leads, and his name has surfaced in a political scandal involving the Port Authority that has roiled the Christie administration.
The New York Times, the Star-Ledger in New Jersey and two other newspapers have called for Samson, a former state attorney general and a powerful private lawyer, to step down because they say clients of his firm have benefited from business with the Port Authority.
Newark resident Cassandra Dock was prepared to tell Samson to step down. She instead addressed the remaining members of the board after he left the meeting.
“How do you sit there and allow Mr. Samson, his law firm, to be a part of a lot of things that have gone on over here, contracts, how? How do you do it,” as she pounded the podium.
While detractors have raised an appearance of a conflict of interest, Samson has said he recused himself from board votes when they involved business with clients of his firm, Wolff & Samson.
He has not responded to calls that he step down.
Separately, a state legislative committee in Trenton and the U.S. Attorney’s office are looking at whether Christie appointees orchestrated traffic tie ups near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last year and whether that action was politically motivated.
The focus centers on other officials, including a former senior Port Authority executive and a former Christie deputy in Trenton.
Samson has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but he's been subpoenaed by the legislative panel to turn over documents.
Last month, he issued an apology as Port Authority chairman for the inconvenience caused by the traffic gridlock over five days in September.
"I trust that when the facts unfold the public will have a complete picture of what happened," he said. The Port Authority oversees bridge operations.
Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye recently told the New York Daily News that Samson “lacked the moral authority” to lead the board.
But Foye was circumspect after Wednesday’s meeting when asked by reporters about Samson and whether he should resign.
“I’m not going to speak about any pending investigation, and that’s a personal question best left to the chairman,” he said.
Another board member ripped into reporters for suggesting that board members had anything other than the best interests of the public at heart.
“I think it’s about time we called a halt to all this nonsense,” said David Steiner, a New Jersey appointee and board member since 2003. “All of you work very hard here. We get zero compensation and to see what’s going on in the press makes me sick.”