While applauding the work of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) as the agency nears its 100-year anniversary, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to create a bi-state reform panel.

The panel will "review and evaluate reforms of the PANYNJ's mission, management, operations and overall governance for the betterment of the region," according to a letter the governors sent to the agency on May 6.

The governors cite operational concerns related to John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports during the past year. "In addition, recent events relating to the George Washington Bridge have raised questions regarding management and governance that must be analyzed and addressed," the letter says, referring to the current Bridgegate scandal over closure last September of entrance lanes leading to the bridge.

The panel, which is expected to meet soon, would be required to provide a written status report that includes recommendations and proposed next steps.

New York

Structure Tone to Pay $55M in Fraud Plea

Building and interiors firm Structure Tone Inc. pleaded guilty to fraud charges in a Manhattan court on April 30 and will pay $55 million in connection with a client overbilling and falsified recordkeeping arrangement.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the payout was one of the largest forfeitures ever imposed on a construction company. The firm also received a three-year "conditional discharge." No company executives were named in the agreement

Structure Tone said in a statement that the issues date to 2005 to 2009, "and we have fully cooperated with authorities from the beginning."

During that same period, Vance said, the firm "required subcontractors on CM jobs to increase bids by adding, in many cases, unnecessary contingencies [that were] concealed from the ... clients." Structure Tone then obtained added discounts from subs that were not passed to clients, said Vance. Structure Tone created fake purchase orders that omitted subs' discounts, with those firms holding overpayments for the contractor, he said.