State lawmakers will revisit the past fiscal and ethical mistakes of the Connecticut Port Authority next month in an effort to ensure they aren’t repeated.
Responding to a bipartisan call, leaders of the legislature’s Transportation Committee have scheduled a second forum to discuss the authority’s problems on Dec. 4 at 10:30 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building.
The hearing is expected to focus heavily on an Oct. 31 report from state Auditors John Geragosian and Robert Kane. The auditors concluded the authority, which was created in 2014 to facilitate development of Connecticut’s deep-water ports, spent thousands of dollars on expensive meals and liquor, incurred excessive legal fees and generally acted without clear policies governing purchases, personnel matters and ethics.
“The report is incredibly alarming and illustrates the improper manner in which the Connecticut Port Authority was operating,” said Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford. “As co-chair of the Transportation Committee, I am committed to correcting what has transpired with the port authority and ensuring it functions in the way as intended by the General Assembly and properly protects and invests in the ports and waterways of Connecticut.”
The committee’s other co-chair, Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, said, “Now that we have the audit report in hand, we can move forward with the necessary steps to resolve the issues presented in the findings.”
Several southeastern Connecticut legislators from both parties called for another hearing after the auditors released their report, as did Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven.
Gov. Ned Lamont, who inherited the embattled authority when he took office in January, reached conclusions similar to those of the auditors and already has taken several steps to put the authority on a better path.
He called last summer for the resignation of then-authority Chairwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder amid media reports that the authority had paid $3,250 to Reemsnyder’s daughter for six professional photographs hung in the CPA’s Old Saybrook office.
The governor named David Kooris, deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, to replace Reemsnyder as acting chairman.
Lamont also directed staff from the state Office of Policy and Management and with Connecticut Innovations — the state’s quasi-public economic development arm — to assist with policy development at the port authority.
Lamont’s office declined to comment Monday about the latest hearing.
The administration’s position, however, is that instead of revisiting past mistakes, the governor and legislature should now focus on the success of the authority. Lamont has said the development of Connecticut’s ports is critical for the state’s economic growth.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection sought proposals this summer for offshore wind generation facilities. Proposals were submitted by Vineyard Wind, Ørsted North America and Eversource, and by Shell New Energies and EDPR Renewables North America.
The Transportation Committee held a public hearing in August, but that was before many details about port authority spending had been publicly released.