ATLANTIC CITY — A top casino regulator is leaving his job to take a high-level post with the bistate agency that operates airports and other transportation facilities serving New York and New Jersey.
Michael A. Fedorko is expected to step down from the New Jersey Casino Control Comm-ission in July to become director of public safety at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, according to people familiar with the move. It will leave the regulatory board with just three members.
Fedorko, 64, will replace Samuel Plumeri, who has been nominated to the New Jersey Parole Board. Fedorko, a Republican from Ewing Township, Mercer County, has been on the casino commission since 1999 and will not be eligible for reappointment when his second five-year term expires in August.
A member of the New Jersey State Police for 30 years, Fedorko rose through the ranks to become acting police superintendent in February 1999. However, then-Gov. Christie Whitman chose someone else to lead the State Police later that year and appointed Fedorko to the Casino Control Commission board instead.
The commission is the chief regulatory agency for Atlantic City’s $4.5 billion casino industry. Fedorko’s departure will leave the normally five-member commission with only three board members unless Gov. Jon S. Corzine moves quickly to fill Fedorko’s seat and finally appoints a replacement for Ralph G. Frulio, an Ocean County Democrat who retired last July.
Neither Fedorko nor port authority spokesman Ron Marsico would comment Tuesday. Corzine spokesman Robert Corrales also had no comment.
Fedorko earns $125,000 annually as a casino commissioner. His salary is expected to increase to $209,000 as director of public safety at the port authority. Among other facilities, the port authority oversees Newark Liberty International Airport, the Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York, four bridges and two tunnels connecting New Jersey and New York and the PATH commuter rail line.
With Fedorko leaving, Corzine will now have an opportunity to appoint two members to the politically prestigious commission. By law, the commission can have no more than three members from the same political party. Currently there are two Democrats and two Republicans, although Democrats effectively control the board through Corzine and commission Chair Linda M. Kassekert.
The commission has operated with only three members at other times in the past, but under those circumstances the board must vote unanimously for anything to pass.
Pressure has been building to permanently reduce the commission’s board from five to three members. Assemblymen Vince Polistina and John Amodeo, both Atlantic County Republicans, say Fedorko’s departure creates the “perfect opportunity” to downsize the commission at a time of state funding shortages.
“The current budget crisis is a result of having a government so big that we can’t afford it,” Amodeo said in a joint statement with Polistina. “There is no reason why we need five commissioners when three will suffice.”
Amodeo and Polistina said they are drafting legislation to permanently reduce the commission’s board to three members. In the meantime, they are asking Corzine not to appoint replacements for Fedorko and Frulio.
The commission and its sister regulatory agency, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, are funded by Atlantic City’s casino industry, not state tax dollars. Polistina said it would be better to reduce the industry’s expense for both agencies and use the savings to help casinos become more competitive against slot parlors in surrounding states.
“Over-regulation simply weighs down the industry,” he said. “The regulatory costs are much cheaper in other states.”
State Sen. James Whelan, D-Atlantic, made similar comments last week when he proposed merging the Casino Control Commission and Division of Gaming Enforcement to save money and cut regulatory red tape.
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