Leadership changes at the Delaware River Port Authority continued today with the appointment of a new deputy chief executive and hiring of a former FBI agent as the DRPA's first inspector general.

Michael Conallen Jr., a former chief of staff to two local Republican congressmen, was named deputy chief executive officer, replacing Robert P. Gross. He will be paid $174,000 a year.

The change reflects the ongoing makeover of the agency following the election of Gov. Corbett, who chairs the DRPA board, who has replaced Democrats appointed during the Rendell administration.

Gross - former head of the Atlantic County Improvement Authority and a longtime friend of Vince Fumo, the jailed former DRPA commissioner and Pennsylvania state senator - joined the agency in April, 2003, shortly after Rendell took office.

Six Pennsylvania board members appointed by Rendell were replaced with Corbett appointees last year. And last month, a Republican political operative and son of a prominent GOP donor was named DRPA spokesman.

Conallen, 41, a Navy veteran of the Iraq war, has been chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick and former U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, both of Pennsylvania. The Yardley resident most recently was vice president of government affairs and sales for Environmental Tectonics Corp., of Southampton.

The DRPA board also approved a non-political hiring with the selection of former FBI agent Thomas W. Raftery 3d as its first inspector general.

He will be the agency's internal watchdog, charged with rooting out fraud, waste and abuse. The position was created as part of reforms instituted in 2010 to try to make the DRPA more transparent and accountable.

Raftery, 52, of Ocean City, N.J., spent 23 years with the FBI in Oklahoma, Newark and Atlantic City. In 2010, he joined the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in Kabul, investigating corruption, contract fraud and money laundering related to reconstruction funding.

He will be paid $130,000 a year.

In other business today, the DRPA board balked at renewing a $900,000 loan guarantee to help keep the Battleship New Jersey operating for three more years.

The board instead approved a 90-day extension of its loan guarantee for the financially troubled tourist attraction on the Camden waterfront, while it investigates the battleship's finances.

In 2003, the DRPA guaranteed a $1 million bank loan to the battleship. Last year, the Home Port Alliance, which operates the ship, paid off $100,000 of the loan.

The battleship operator doesn't have the money to retire the loan, DRPA chief financial officer John Hanson said, but will try to pay $100,000 a year. Hanson said the agency could be required by lender TD Bank to repay the $900,000 balance if the loan guarantee is not extended and the battleship defaults.

DRPA chief executive John Matheussen is chairman of the board of the Home Port Alliance, and Jeffrey Nash, the Camden County freeholder who is the DRPA's vice chairman, is a trustee on the group's board.

Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com

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