In a twist of irony, John Estey, former Chief of Staff to Gov. Rendell and currently a partner at the law firm of Ballard Spahr, teaches a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course entitled, "Lobbying, the Practice of Law, and the Revolving Door: Where are the Lines?" In order to keep law licenses current, all attorneys in Pennsylvania are required to take CLE courses once a year.
As chairman-designate of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), with full voting power on all issues, Mr. Estey presides over a DRPA Board of Commissioners which continues to authorize millions in legal fees to Ballard Spahr—Estey’s own firm. When Estey is unable to chair a meeting, that role falls to fellow Ballard partner Ken Jarin, who normally attends meetings as the Authority’s Pennsylvania outside counsel. Mr. Jarin’s wife is Pennsylvania Treasurer Robin Wiessmann, who maintains a seat on the DRPA Board. In effect, when the Board "receives" and accepts the monthly bills to Ballard Spahr, Mr. Estey, Mr. Jarin and Ms. Wiessmann are lining their own pockets.
In addition to Mr. Jarin, yet another Ballard partner, Adrian King, Jr., often attends DRPA meetings as outside counsel. Mr. Estey and Mr. King are brothers-in-law. King served as Governor Rendell’s Deputy Chief of Staff.
Gov. Rendell, Chairman of the Port Authority, was a partner at the Ballard firm prior to winning the governorship. Mr. Jarin has contributed $90,000 to the governor, Mr. Estey $27,000, and Mr. King, $8,000. Ms. Wiessmann was not elected Treasurer, but rather appointed by Governor Rendell following Bob Casey’s election to the U.S. Senate.
In the three years prior to Mr. Rendell’s 2002 election as governor, the Ballard firm received $25,000 from the DRPA. Since then, it has received over $2.7 million.
Estey sees no conflict of interest with the DRPA/Ballard Spahr arrangement, nor did he object to former DRPA Assistant to the Chairman, Marc Woolley, maintaining offices at both the DRPA and at Ballard Spahr’s headquarters in Philadelphia. Only after The Bulletin exposed this arrangement did Mr. Wooley resign from the Authority.
The Delaware River Port Authority is not the only entity in which Mr. Estey continues to wield enormous influence. He also serves as Chairman of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA). The PRPA is an organization created by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to assist in the economic development of the region’s port facilities.
During a June 18, 2008 PRPA board meeting, a motion was approved to retain the services of Ballard Spahr a no-bid basis. Ultimately, no bid contracts in Pennsylvania are approved by the Executive Branch, headed by Gov. Rendell, and paid by the Commonwealth Treasurer (Robin Wiessmann), who was appointed to her office by Gov. Rendell.
Chris Freind can be reached at [email protected]