This is a story about how a tinted window, an oversize license plate frame and some profanity led to the resignation of a state ethics committee chairwoman for ethics violations.
It started with a traffic stop in Tenafly, N.J.
Two officers pulled over a Toyota Corolla that police records indicate had tinted windows at its front seats — barred in the state — and a license plate frame that partially obstructed the Nevada tags on the car. It turned out the vehicle registration had expired and the driver couldn’t show proof of insurance. So, following procedure, police called for an impound. The car’s four occupants called for a ride.
Enter Caren Z. Turner, a Port Authority commissioner at the center of the scandal and mother of one of the backseat passengers.
Turner arrived on the scene demanding answers and flaunting her powerful connections. The full 15-minute confrontation was recorded by a patrol car dashcam. (Warning: The video contains profanity.)
When Turner was asked whether she was there to provide a ride for the stranded group, she replied, “I’m here as a concerned citizen and friend of the mayor.”
Twenty-nine seconds later she flashed her gold Port Authority badge.
“Are you a commissioner?” Officer Matthew Savitsky asked.
“I am a commissioner of the Port Authority and I’m heading up over 4,000 police officers so if there’s a problem …” Turner trailed off.
At the time Turner was chairwoman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Ethics Committee. She was appointed to the commission by former Gov. Chris Christie in March 2017.
“There’s no problem,” Savitsky responded calmly as Turner became more agitated. She continued to ask why the driver was pulled over.
Moments later Savitsky called her “Miss,” and that set Turner off: “No, don’t call me Miss. I’m ‘Commissioner.’ Thank you,” she rebuked him.
Officers Savitsky and Thomas Casper proceeded to engage in a tedious argument with Turner. She insisted she had a right to know what led to the traffic stop while the policemen repeated the same refrain: that they were under no legal obligation to tell her because the driver of the car as well as the others — all adults — had already been informed.
Turner’s efforts to persuade the officers to explain what had happened included exclamations of “Shame on you,” “I’m disappointed in you” and more name-dropping.
“Do you know Lewis … what’s his name? [Unintelligible]?” she asked. The answer was no.
When Savitsky told her she was free to leave the scene, Turner said, “You may shut the f*** up.”
She also called one of the officers “an ass” and said he had a “smug-ass look” on his face.
Upon learning of the incident, Port Authorities officials launched an investigation.
“The video speaks for itself. The conduct was indefensible,” the Port Authority told NPR in a statement.
“The Board takes its recently adopted Code of Ethics for Commissioners extremely seriously and was preparing to form a special committee to review the findings of the Inspector General investigation and take action at this Thursday’s Board meeting. Commissioner Turner’s resignation was appropriate given her outrageous conduct.”
Turner resigned on April 20 effective immediately.
“I have enjoyed my involvement in overseeing the critical work of the Port Authority and advancing values common to the residents of New York and New Jersey including the proposed improvements to the Port Authority airports and bus terminal, and the proposed increase to the minimum wage for airport employees,” she wrote in her resignation letter.