State Pier in New London

Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday instructed his budget director to oversee all financial decisions made by the troubled Connecticut Port Authority and charged the panel with suspending all business except for an offshore wind-to-energy project.

The new assignment given to Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw and prioritization of the energy project were just two of several measures the governor announced to stabilize the quasi-public port authority, which has been shaken by controversy in recent weeks.

Lamont also announced Friday that he has accepted the resignation of port authority member Scott Bates and that he has directed the authority’s acting chairman, David Kooris, to hire an independent firm to audit the authority’s financial and management practices.

All of these measures were taken collectively, according to a statement from Lamont’s office, “to ensure continued success of the quasi-public state agency under the highest standards of transparency and fiscal best practices; [to] consummate a historic partnership with the offshore wind industry to make Connecticut the hub of renewable energy development in the Northeast; and [to] provide continued access for traditional maritime commerce in New London and throughout Connecticut’s other ports.”

McCaw, who oversees the Executive Branch’s chief fiscal and policy planning agency, also will have “active involvement in and oversight of any financial decisions” made by port authority staff until the audit and management review has been completed, according to the governor’s office.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw

The quasi-public agency came under fire earlier this summer amid media reports that it had paid $3,000 to the daughter of then-authority chairwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder for six professional photographs hung in the authority’s Old Saybrook office. Reemsnyder, who also is Old Lyme first selectwoman, resigned from her authority post on July 24.

Lamont did not give a reason for Bates’ resignation, but the New London Day reported earlier this week that while serving as the board chairman, Bates had approved Reemsnyder’s photo purchase knowing that they were from her daughter.

The authority also recently placed its executive director, Evan Matthews, on administrative leave, but has not stated the reason.

The port authority was created by the General Assembly and charged given responsibility for development of the state’s Long Island Sound ports in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London, as well as inland river ports.

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. The governor has said it is crucial that this project is a vital part of shoreline development.

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Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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1 Comment

  1. I have only one thing to say here…
    “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

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