At a cost of more than $14,000, NJ Transit said it sent four employees to the Super Bowl in New Orleans so they could help prepare the agency to handle transportation and security at the event next year at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Bills obtained by The Record newspaper through an Open Public Records Act request show the charges for the trip included $7,800 for hotel rooms from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, $5,241 for airfare and $423 in miscellaneous expenses, the newspaper reported Friday.
The party was made up of chief of staff of rail operations Rich Andreski, Hoboken rail operations superintendent Joseph Meade III, NJ Transit Police Officer Patrick Clark and police official Robert Gatchell, the Record reported. The Meadowlands Rail link, which provides service to MetLife Stadium, is part of the Hoboken division.
Agency spokesman John Duros said hosting the Super Bowl in New Jersey will require extensive planning and he expects the trip to New Orleans to "generate important dividends moving forward.''
He refused to say whether the four attended the game, between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, referring instead to the documents provided by the agency.
The Record said the documents show Andreski and Meade both filled out credential applications seeking to observe Super Bowl transportation, security, and stadium and event operations before and during the game at the Superdome, which the Ravens won 34-31. In his credential application, Officer Clark listed his pre-event and game-day job functions as emergency management planning.
Durso said a fifth NJ Transit employee, Penny Bassett Hackett, assistant executive director for communications and customer service, also attended but paid her own way.
The CEO of the New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority told the newspaper he met with several members of the delegation to discuss how transportation providers had to collaborate.
State Assembly Transportation chairman John Wisniewski, who also chairs the Democratic State Committee, issued a statement Friday calling the trip a "junket" and saying it displayed poor judgment by the transit agency. He said NJ Transit already has a wealth of experience managing operations and security for large events and is still recovering from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.
The Record noted it is not uncommon for cities hosting Super Bowl games to visit earlier games as part of the planning process. A spokesman for the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, Phil Craig, called it a "a worthwhile expenditure of public funds."