Trenton, New Jersey (CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie nominated a former state attorney general to head the transportation agency at the center of a political scandal over traffic jams that has led to closer scrutiny of its operations.
Christie tapped John Degnan to succeed David Samson, another former state attorney general who stepped down in March from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
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Samson had come under pressure to resign over questions that some of his law firm's clients had benefited from agency business. Samson has said all dealings with those interests were above board.
His name has also surfaced around the scandal roiling Christie's administration over traffic jams at the foot of the George Washington Bridge. Federal prosecutors and state legislative investigators are looking at whether the gridlock caused by bridge access lane closures in Fort Lee were politically motivated.
A top Port Authority executive appointed by Christie is alleged to have closed the lanes over several days last September in conjunction with at least one other top official from Christie's office in Trenton. Christie himself has not been implicated and has said he knew nothing about it at the time.
In nominating Degnan, a Democrat, Christie cited his fairness and sound decision-making.
"His charge from me is to do what he has always done in public life and that is to bring his best judgment without prejudice towards any conclusions, about where this agency needs to go in order to meet its challenges and to serve the toll payers of New York and New Jersey," Christie said.
The Port Authority oversees New York-area airports, in addition to bridges, tunnels, and bus terminals.
Christie said Degnan is willing to put "people before partisan politics and it's on that basis I'm more enthusiastic about his willingness to serve."
Degnan served during the administration of former Gov. Brendan Byrne in the late 70s. He also ran for governor in 1981, but failed to win the Democratic nomination. In the private sector, he worked two decades for Chubb Corporation, an insurer, where he performed many roles and is now an adviser.
"There is a lot of work ahead of us and we have an obligation to work together to serve the best interests of the people of the region," Degnan said. "I'm eager to get started, and I'll do all I can to cooperate fully with the confirmation process."
Degnan will certainly have his hands full as he steps into his new role at the Port Authority.
In addition to ongoing probes into matters related to the Port Authority, the Securities and Exchange Commission recently joined the Manhattan District Attorney's investigation into the way Port Authority funds were redirected to pay for a road project on a non-Port Authority property in New Jersey.
Christie said that he was only aware of SEC development through media reports and that his office has not been contacted by the agency.
Christie said he is confident that if they are conducting an investigation, the SEC will reach the same conclusion–that it was a legal and appropriate use of funds and that there was no fraud or misleading bond holders.
The governor has also called for reform at the agency.
The state Senate and the Port Authority board must weigh in before Degnan can join the agency.