Denise Mason, one of the authors of an effort to limit the authority of the internal watchdog of the Delaware River Port Authority, has been removed as vice chairman of the DRPA board's audit committee.
David Simon, chairman of the DRPA board, replaced Mason Friday with another New Jersey board member, Rick Taylor, personnel director of the Pennsauken School District.
Simon acted on a request from DRPA board Vice Chairman Jeff Nash, who is also a Camden County freeholder and leader of DRPA's New Jersey delegation.
Mason will be dealing with personal issues in Texas for an indefinite period, Nash said in his request to Simon. Mason said last week she was in Texas with her ill mother.
Simon referred questions to DRPA spokesman Tim Ireland, who confirmed Friday that Mason was no longer vice chairman of the committee. He declined to discuss the reasons for the move.
Mason, along with Nash, proposed last month to reduce the powers of the agency's internal watchdog.
The changes, reported last week in The Inquirer, would, among other things, prevent DRPA Inspector General Thomas Raftery 3d from immediately reporting suspected crimes to federal, state, or local law enforcement officials. The new protocol would be for him to report the allegations to top agency officials.
The proposed limits on the inspector general, a position created this year, prompted fireworks among board members, with a scathing memo from one and the abrupt cancellation of a meeting scheduled to consider the matter.
A memo outlining the proposed changes was circulated privately among agency board members and top staff. The Inquirer obtained copies of it.
The proposal would require the inspector general to report virtually all matters to chief executive John Matheussen and other top agency officials. That would reverse a September board decision that made the inspector general more independent of Matheussen.
Under the changes, Matheussen and the other officials also would gain authority to amend reports from the inspector general before their release.
The changes, which would require approval from a majority of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania members of the bistate DRPA board, have no apparent support among the Pennsylvania members.
The inspector general position was created as part of efforts in 2010 to make DRPA more transparent and accountable.
The agency, which operates four toll bridges and the PATCO commuter rail line, has long been a haven of patronage and lucrative contracts.
Raftery was hired in January for $130,000 a year. His salary and independence quickly became flash points for debate among the board members and Matheussen.