The chairwoman of the Connecticut Port Authority, Bonnie Reemsnyder, resigned Wednesday amid calls for her to step down by Gov. Ned Lamont.
Meanwhile the quasi-public agency tapped a former head of the Groton submarine base to assist with day-to-day operations.
Reemsnyder, who is also the Democratic first selectwoman of Old Lyme, came under fire amid media reports that the authority paid her daughter $3,000 for six professional photographs hung in the authority’s Old Saybrook office.
“The Connecticut Port Authority, which is responsible for enacting an ambitious and forward-looking agenda on the behalf of Connecticut’s ports and their economic vitality, must show the state’s taxpayers, potential business partners, and state leaders that they are ready, willing, and able to take on this important task,” Lamont said. “The recent events have been a sideshow and distraction to this organization’s critical mission, and that is something I won’t tolerate. It is critical that the Connecticut Port Authority has a clear vision with strong and accountable leadership.”
“I submitted my resignation as requested by the governor, and I offered to do so before that request, believing it’s in the best interest of the Connecticut Port Authority,” Reemsnyder said. “I’ve enjoyed my work for the port authority, believe in the mission, and feel confident that it’s moving in the right direction. I regret if any of my actions put the port authority in a negative light.”
She resigned during Wednesday’s port authority meeting, according to Lamont spokesman Rob Blanchard.
Lamont stressed that the controversy not be a distraction from negotiations on the development of offshore wind in Connecticut. Those talks remain ongoing, the governor’s office said, and his administration has stepped in to lead the negotiations to ensure the best possible outcome.
The authority has been planning a $93 million investment at State Pier in New London to complement assembly efforts for a major wind generation project planned by Ørsted North America and Eversource in federal waters beyond Long Island Sound.
A quasi-public agency, the authority is charged with growing jobs and Connecticut’s economy by managing investments in the state’s three deepwater ports.
Reemsnyder was elected chair of the port authority in mid-June. The Day in New London reported this week that she said it was a mistake to allow the authority to pay her daughter $3,000 for the photographs.
The authority also recently placed its executive director, Evan Matthews, on administrative leave, but has not stated the reason.
But The Day reported that state auditor John Geragosian confirmed there is a complaint pending under Connecticut’s whistleblower statute alleging management misuse of funds at the authority.
The Board of Directors for the authority announced Tuesday it had retained retired Navy Captain Paul Whitescarver as a senior executive consultant to assist with daily operations and management.
Whitescarver, who was commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton for three-and-a-half years, retired from his 39-year-career in the Navy this past May.
“I look forward to bringing Paul onboard and leveraging his extensive management experience to continue moving forward with the work we have underway to promote economic growth and create jobs throughout the state,” said David Kooris, vice chairman of the authority.