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Statement of New Jersey Commissioner Jan Gilhooly Before the New Jersey State Senate Labor Committee in Opposition to SJR36

April 28, 2014

Members of the Committee:

           Good morning. As my statement will be brief, I will get right to the point.

           My name is Jan Gilhooly and I have been the New Jersey Commissioner of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor since I was unanimously confirmed by the New Jersey Senate in February of 2011. I am not a politician, but rather, a public servant with a forty-year career of service with the Department of Justice, U.S. Treasury Department, Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. State Department. My ethical record, my integrity and truthfulness are without question. I took my place on a Commission that had been severely and justifiably criticized in 2009 by the New York State Inspector General’s Office for a total disregard of the laws it was responsible to enforce. My only marching orders were to bring my demonstrated leadership to the Commission’s revitalized administration so that the agency could continue to re-dedicate itself to its statutory mission, and to do whatever I could to help the Port in New Jersey grow and prosper.

            For those of you who are not aware, the Waterfront Commission is made up of two Commissioners, one from New Jersey and the other from New York. In May of 2007, when the Governor and the Legislature of New Jersey voted to do away with Section 5-p, which is a critical part of the Waterfront Commission Act, there was a clear rift between the Commissioner from New Jersey who supported the bill, and the one from New York who was totally against it. The Legislature heard testimony from the former New Jersey Commissioner and General Counsel, who claimed that the need for Section 5-p was no longer present and that its enactment had nothing to do with organized crime. Their testimony was devoid of fact and filled with mistruths. As I have stated in the past, if I had heard what they said, I might have been inclined to vote the same way myself. Just four months later, the Waterfront Commission was investigated.

            Just four months later, the Waterfront Commission was investigated for misconduct, conflicts of interest, abuse and waste. Both the New Jersey Commissioner and General Counsel were found to be at the center of many of those problems. In 2009, both were publically removed from their positions.

            Today, both New York Commissioner Ronald Goldstock and I stand united in our opposition to the proposed joint resolution that is before you today. As you will hear in subsequent testimony, repealing Section 5-p would effectively hand the keys to the Port to the organized crime elements that we have been tirelessly working to overcome. It would also take away our ability to ensure that hiring in the Port is done fairly and without discrimination. One need only go to our website to see the record this administration has established in working to rid the Port of organized crime and to keep the honest hardworking longshoremen in a safe environment with equal opportunity for all.

            We have worked hard to ensure that there is not an overabundance of labor, while at the same time doing everything in our power to meet the industry’s need for workers. And, by using our Section 5-p powers, we have insisted on the hiring of a diverse workforce from the surrounding region, unlike the past, when an unbelievable number of individuals from North Jersey communities almost 70 miles from the Port were hired because of their ties to union officials. I assure you that we will not resort to being the Commission of old, whose highest ranking officials were fired for their incompetence and abuse.

            And, in return, we have been subject to lies and insults. I don’t like being called a communist by the President of the International Longshoremen’s Association. And I certainly would have been justified in calling him a racist when, on the record, he referred to people from workforce centers and the projects as “garbage” when we suggested that the industry widen its recruitment pool. But I refrained from doing so. We deal with people who believe they have no accountability, only to their own selfish needs. Mistruths are spoken to you by paid lobbyists who run to you in hopes that you will never check their stories, or by people who have a financial gain in their purpose.

            But I believe that elected officials endeavor to make decisions based on fact, not a lobbyist’s fable. And so, in each case where I was alerted to concerns by elected officials, I reached out and offered to meet with them to shed light on the true facts. I have often said that facts are the enemies of people who deal in rumor and untruth. I would have hoped that if any of you had concerns or questions, you would have contacted me directly for answers.

            I submit that, after hearing our testimony today, even those of you who may have already made up your minds on this issue will be as disappointed as I am in the industry’s demonstrated lack of candor with you, the press and the public. Instead of urging the Governor and Legislature of New York to repeal Section 5-p, I submit that New Jersey should instead devote its efforts to the re-enactment of this critical provision.

            I would now like to turn this over to Walter Arsenault, the Executive Director of the Waterfront Commission. Director Arsenault, the grandson of a longshoreman, has a distinguished 35-year record in law enforcement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, the New York District Attorney’s Office, and the New York City Department of Investigation. Since his appointment in late 2008, he has played an integral role in bringing integrity back to the Commission, and in making it the well-respected law enforcement agency that it once was.

            Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor