CRDA Executive Director Thomas Carver has been working without a contract since October 2007. Vernon Ogrodnek

ATLANTIC CITY — The executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority formally resigned his post Tuesday, leaving a vacancy in one of Atlantic City’s most powerful government positions.

The Governor’s Office confirmed that Thomas Carver sent his resignation letter to Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday afternoon, just one day after Christie publicly said he wanted the Democratic holdover out of the newly expanded authority. The resignation goes into effect Feb. 15.

“This is the date of our next board meeting, and there are several important items on the agenda which I have had an integral role in,” Carver wrote in his brief letter. “I wish to thank you for the opportunity to serve the people of Atlantic City, the region and the state.”

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Carver’s departure leaves an opening for what could be the most powerful position in the resort. The CRDA, a state agency that receives a percentage of casino profits and reinvests them for development in Atlantic City and other New Jersey neighborhoods, was recently expanded by the governor and the Legislature to control major portions of the city, which are now known as the Tourism District. The zone currently includes the Boardwalk, the Marina District and Bader Field, but is subject to change in the next three months if the CRDA decides to expand the area or limit it.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Carver declined to discuss his decision to leave.

“I don’t really have any comment,” Carver said. “The governor can do all the commenting that he wants. It would be up to the governor to make any comment. ... I just feel very strongly about that.”

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, also declined to discuss the resignation beyond confirming the receipt of the letter and reading it to a reporter.

Carver became the authority’s executive director in late 2005, replacing developer Curtis Bashaw, who served in the seat for less than two years. Before taking the CRDA’s helm, acting Gov. Richard Codey appointed Carver labor commissioner in 2004. Carver also headed the New Jersey Casino Association from 1984 to 1994, where he assisted in drafting the legislation that created the CRDA and the South Jersey Transportation Authority. He also sat as a member of CRDA’s board for several years.

The outgoing director had been serving on a month-to-month basis with the CRDA since Gov. Jon S. Corzine failed to grant him a two-year extension in 2009. The situation left him vulnerable to Christie’s power to remove him, and his future looked even dimmer when the governor announced last week that there would be “new leadership” at the authority. Responding to a reporter’s question at a news conference Monday, Christie said he could not live with Carver as the CRDA’s director.

“Unless they tell me tomorrow, ‘That’s it, thanks, go home,’ I’ll keep working,” Carver said Monday in response to the governor.

James Kehoe, chairman of the CRDA board, said he had no knowledge of the resignation or Carver’s intentions to leave.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Kehoe said before the Governor’s Office confirmed the resignation. “I just met with him around noon. He didn’t say anything to me.”

The resignation will likely push the governor to appoint a new director faster than he had initially anticipated. Christie said last week that he expected the authority to have new leadership “relatively quickly,” and that Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, would be involved in making the choice.

State Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, who had not been aware of the resignation until he spoke with The Press of Atlantic City, did not seem surprised by the development.

“We all had a sense that his time may be short,” Whelan said. “Personally, I like Tom. I think he cares a lot about Atlantic City. This is a difficult town to do things in, but we’ve had some progress. I look at the next phase of The Walk (outlets) that’s under construction and the widening of (Martin Luther King) Boulevard as signs of that.”

Whelan said it is not essential that the next CRDA director have an intimate knowledge of Atlantic City, as Carver does.

“There are other skills that are more important,” he said. “Someone having the ability to be the orchestra director. Someone who can get people to read from the same sheet of music.”

Whelan said he has not formally made any suggestions to the governor about a new head of the authority, unlike Assemblymen John Amodeo and Vince Polistina, both R-Atlantic, who submitted at least two names to the administration for consideration. Amodeo previously said they received no response to their submissions, leaving him to believe that Christie would enlist someone from the northern part of the state.

Staff Writer Derek Harper contributed to this report.

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