Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairperson Kevin O’Toole dodged reporters’ questions Thursday about allegations that he foiled his sister’s police career over a family dispute.
The ex-New Jersey lawmaker repeatedly shut down journalists who asked about the claims made by Eileen O’Toole, a police captain in the Garden State, that he pushed local officials to put the kibosh on her promotion to lead a local police department.
She filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court last week against her suburban township of Cedar Grove, and told NBC New York that she was “100% positive” her brother was behind Town Manager Thomas Tucci’s decision to deny her the top job.
“Obviously news spilled out last week on a family issue and a litigation issue. I have issued a public statement on that, I don’t intend to speak on that again,” O’Toole said at the beginning of a July 28 press conference following the Authority’s monthly board meeting in Lower Manhattan.
“I’m not aware of any investigation other than the one that I was forced to go to the Essex County prosecutor’s office on a harassment issue, and that’s all I’m going to speak about,” he added.
O’Toole then instructed staff to skip questions about the case, labelling them “off-topic.”
“It’s on-topic Tom, and we’re keeping the questions on topic,” he told the employee. “If off-topic, we’re gonna move to the next one.”
True to his word, the three reporters who brought up the allegations were cut off when staff pulled the microphone away from them.
“It’s off topic,” O’Toole said over the objections of one reporter. “Thank you very much.”
The Port Authority oversees the region’s airports, ports, bridges and tunnels crossing the Hudson River, and the PATH train.
Eileen’s complaint does not name Kevin as a defendant, but she claimed her brother, a former Republican state senator and mayor of Cedar Grove, pushed Tucci to not hire her for the top job. The township denied the charges.
The move was allegedly in retaliation for a family dispute in November, she said.
“We had the personal dispute and then he just came after me. That’s what he does, he hurts people,” O’Toole told NBC. “His way of punishing me was to damage my career.”
The feud originated partially from disagreements with family members about vaccination policy and politics, Kevin O’Toole told the New York Post, adding that he had sought help from the Essex County prosecutor’s office because he had become a victim of harassment and stalking.
Former Governor Chris Christie, a fellow Republican, nominated O’Toole to the Port Authority Board in 2017, after which he was elected as the panel’s chairperson later that year. He has kept the position under Democratic Governor Phil Murphy.