NJ Transit vice chair suddenly resigns from board

Cedrick Fulton, the vice chair of NJ Transit’s board, abruptly resigned Tuesday, The Record and NorthJersey.com has learned.

NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith confirmed that Fulton resigned "effective immediately" and said he "expressed his thanks for the support over the last three years." Smith added that the agency is grateful for his service and said his "experience, energy and passion for public service has been an asset to NJ Transit and will certainly be missed."

Fulton, whose term was not up until next January, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His name, picture and bio had been scrubbed from the agency's board website by Tuesday afternoon.

The news comes as the board was due to have, for the first time in seven years, a full complement of members. Three new people are scheduled to take their seats at the first meeting of the year Wednesday. With Fulton gone, one seat will be empty.

The board, which includes Murphy administration officials, labor representatives and members of the public nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy and confirmed by the state Senate, provides oversight and approves contracts and policy at the largest statewide transit agency in the country.

Expanding the size of the board and the experience required of its members was a hallmark of the NJ Transit reform legislation Murphy signed in December 2018. However, Murphy's decision not to renominate James D. Adams was scrutinized for appearing to be a punishment for being outspoken.

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Unclear reasons for abrupt departure

The reasons behind Fulton’s sudden departure are so far unknown, but he appeared to be increasingly frustrated with NJ Transit’s upper management. At the December board meeting, Fulton spent four minutes publicly criticizing staff for not involving the board in a complex item on the agenda, calling the lack of communication “unacceptable.”

The item, which received unanimous board approval, involved granting the state Department of Environmental Protection the use of NJ Transit property in Hudson County so it could construct and operate a system that would prevent flooding in Hoboken, Jersey City and Weehawken.

This is the first NJ Transit board meeting with several new membersnew member Cedrick Fulton
This is the first NJ Transit board meeting with several new membersnew member Cedrick Fulton

“Frankly, what’s distressing and disappointing about this initiative is not the flood mitigation objective, an objective of strategic importance. I am frustrated by the lack of transparency associated with this initiative,” Fulton said at the meeting on Dec. 14, 2022. The first time Fulton said he heard about the project was just a month earlier, even though it had been under discussion among agency staff for years.

“Kevin, I would ask that you and your team do a better job of communicating matters that have this type of financial and operating significance to the board,” he said, referring to NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett.

Corbett downplayed the tension after that December meeting, telling The Record and NorthJersey.com that usually the communication is "really good."

"Cedrick is a great board member who really likes to get actively involved," Corbett said. "We try to brief the board on things we think are relevant," and in cases where they want more information, he added, "certainly we’re glad to do that."

Fulton has made similar comments, though less forcefully, during his nearly three years on the board.

He and board peers have called out the staff when they read about several NJ Transit incidents in the news before receiving information from the agency, like a bus crash near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and when a woman was stranded after she fell asleep on a train that went out of service.

He also peppered staff with in-depth questions during committee meetings and requested additional detail about, for example, the mechanical causes of train breakdowns, which are occurring more frequently as some rolling stock enters its fourth or fifth decade of use.

Reformer surprised he was still on the board

Fulton joined the board in February 2020, along with several other board members, as part of a new wave of officials meant to improve accountability and transparency at the agency.

Adams, who also joined the board at that time, made criticisms similar to Fulton's and voted no on items he thought did not pass muster, even though no other board members voted the same way.

Asked whether he was surprised Adams wasn't renominated, Fulton, in an interview with The Record and NorthJersey.com last week about Adams' departure, said, "I was disappointed ... I tend not to be surprised by things that are above my paygrade. ... I'm surprised I'm still on the board."

He continued that a mentor while he worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey once told him, "You never quite know."

"The world that we operate in, the relationships, the partnerships, the alliances — and this is nothing Machiavellian — this is government," Fulton said. "There’s always reasons why things happen."

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ Transit Vice Chair Cedrick Fulton resigns from board