Rachel Maddow   |  February 20, 2014

Port Authority chairman retroactively unvotes

Rachel Maddow reports on a strange twist in a New Jersey story in which a year-old vote by the Port Authority chairman is being retroactively changed.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> totally unexpected development in the chris christie bridge scandal today. i did not expect this today. all right, last night on this show, we introduced you to this plot of land, it's a nice place, right? it's a parking lot in northern new jersey just across the river from new york city . the entity that operating that parking lot has been trying for a few years now to figure out a way to mack mize its profits from operating that parking lot and a few others. in order to do that, they hired a top new jersey law firm to help advise them on this matter called wolff and samson . they paid them $50,000 according to the bergen record . then they gave the law firm in the hopes that wolff and samson could help them figure out how to make more profit out of their parking lots . well, the samson in wolff samson is this samson , david samson . he's the chairman of the port authority . it also happens to own that piece of land where the parking lot sits. hmmm. in early 2012 , mr. samson in his official role as chairman of the port authority decided he would cast a vote to change the way his agency leased that land going forward. he voted that they should stop charging the entity that operated the parking lot , should stop charging them $900,000 a year that they had been charging them and instead they should start charging them $1. $1 per year. do the math. david samson in private practice was being paid to help that entity. and then changed their rent to $1 a year. that laugh out loud story broke yesterday morning on the front page of the " bergen record " paper. now port authority conflict in interest emerges. this came the same day samson gave his first public apology for his agency's role in the bridgegate scandal in new jersey. if that was the end of it, that would still be an amazing story. toll payers lose $900,000 every year from here on out. so a chris christie appointee can steer that money to his clients instead. his clients who are paying him handsomely for that job. that alone would be kind of an amazingly simple story about how things work in new jersey. but because this is new jersey, of course, that isn't the end of it. today, the rbergen record and the port authority are making this go away now. they're trying to disappear the vote. look at this. the port authority 's general counsel on wednesday agreed to change the recorded board vote on the dollar a year lease deal after the board's chairman david samson said he did not intend to vote on the contract. david samson was present at the vote that day. he voted yes, but now two years later, he's saying actually he never intended to vote in the first place. he would like to retroactively recuse himself from that vote, please. two years later. in a letter to david samson on wednesday, the port authority general counsel told mr. samson , quote, i have concluded that you intended to recuse on that matter. through clerical inadvertencinadvertence, your recusal was not noted. clerical inadvertence. i'm going to get that tattooed in latin on my bag. a spokesman did answer to the bergen record yesterday. but today she responded to the newspaper by providing that letter, the general counsel's letter which says essentially the vote in question never happened. it's not like a divorce, more like an annulment. just never happened. the port authority 's general counsel says he now intends to, quote, correct tlect david samson 's recusal. i'm not sure i've ever seen anything as a retroactive recuse recus recusal, but in new jersey we're all learning that anything is possible. late tonight as a result of this developing story as well as the agency's role in the bridgegate scandal, tonight "the star ledger " published this editorial calling on david samson to resi resign. so far chris christie seems happy to keep him in the post. he says he's quite confident that david samson did nothing wrong, but the largest paper in new jersey tonight says he's got to go. stay tuned. now it's time for "the last word" with lawrence