FEDERAL PROSECUTORS want details about how the Delaware River Port Authority spent millions of public dollars in the past five years on projects that had nothing to do with the agency's mission of operating bridges and a rail line over the Delaware River.
The chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office's public-corruption unit in Philadelphia sent the DRPA a subpoena two weeks ago for all records about that spending, dating to January 2008.
The DRPA has until Tuesday morning to turn over "board minutes, financial records, grant/loan application packages, correspondence and all electronic communications . . . sent or received by DRPA employees and/or board of commissioners," according to the subpoena, which was obtained Wednesday by the Daily News.
DRPA spokesman Tim Ireland confirmed Wednesday that his agency had received the subpoena at its Camden headquarters and is "cooperating fully" to turn over the relevant records.
"We will make sure that our compliance with the subpoena demonstrates the renewed commitment to transparency reflected in reforms passed recently by DRPA Board of Commissioners," Ireland said.
Patricia Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, said her agency does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations.
The New Jersey Comptroller's Office, in a 2012 report probing "wasteful and inappropriate spending" at the DRPA, calculated that the agency has borrowed and distributed more than $440 million in the past two decades for "a massive economic-development campaign" unrelated to the agency's actual duties.
The DRPA, run jointly by Pennsylvania and New Jersey, operates the Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross bridges and the PATCO train line.
The DRPA, under intense public scrutiny in August 2010, voted to stop borrowing and spending money on economic-development projects, noting those funds "could have been invested in the agency's own assets."
But the spigot of cash continued to flow for another year.
The DRPA in December 2011 dished out $20 million more in economic-development funding for projects such as student housing at Rutgers University, a cancer center at Cooper University Hospital, and the closing and demolition of a state prison on Camden's waterfront.
Gov. Corbett, who served as chairman of the agency from May 2011 until November, wrote in the introduction to the DRPA annual report in August 2012 that the agency was "in need of a vigorous culture change" and that the most significant accomplishment toward that goal had been the vote to stop spending public dollars on economic-development projects.
The DRPA previously spent millions to help build projects such as the National Constitution Center and sports stadiums in Philadelphia, as well as the Adventure Aquarium and a berth for the Battleship New Jersey in Camden.
The DRPA also used $11 million in economic-development funds to support the Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, a nonprofit started by former state Sen. Vince Fumo. And it helped fund the Independence Seaport Museum at Penn's Landing, which gave Fumo free use of an expensive yacht.
Fumo is now serving a federal prison term on corruption charges that included misusing money from his nonprofit and the free yacht use from the museum.