Editorial: On Reemsnyder’s Resignation from the Connecticut Port Authority

in Editorials

I take no pleasure in First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder’s resignation from the Connecticut Port Authority (CPA), nor in the remarkably abrupt change in coverage from The Day that would end her brief tenure.

That ‘news’ columnist David Collins chose only yesterday to notice that Ms. Reemsnyder had a professional background in daycare, rather than in transportation or finance, speaks as much to the performance of The Day as to the performance of the quasi-public agency.

The needless cruelty of the opinion piece, which I know appeals to many readers when it is directed elsewhere, is in my view a misuse of the power of the press, better evidence of over-compensation than the rigor of reporting.

As a news source intended as a service to readers across the political spectrum – to Democrats and Republicans alike — this story has been a burden.  I am frankly relieved and glad not to have broken it so early in our operations — but make no mistake, I would have.

I have known Kevin Blacker and discussed concerns about the port authority with him for several months – indeed it was at his family restaurant that I first offered Cate Hewitt her job at CT Examiner. Several months ago, David Collins solicited my opinion about former board chair Scott Bates, in light of Mr. Blacker’s concerns.

On Friday, July 12, I received a text from a longtime and reliable source that Evan Matthews, executive director at CPA, “is out.” Since that time, the board and staff of the port authority has been engaging in a game of hide and seek, unwilling even to comment (or at least comment accurately) on the status of the authority leadership.

On Wednesday, July 17, I received information from an anonymous source, with photographic evidence, that the port authority had purchased the artwork of Ms. Reemsnyder’s daughter – a clear ethical breach, and a breach of the public trust, but not obviously an illegal act. This is a story that we chose not to publish immediately, while we pursued potentially larger, more troubling, stories concerning the authority. Nothing in Mr. Collins’ writing resolves these concerns.

On the most basic level, the staff of a statewide authority currently negotiating perhaps the most consequential financial deal in southeast Connecticut can’t simply hide in their offices and fail to answer their phones. That includes Andrew Lavigne, still employed by the port authority. One wonders also where Scott Bates, who recently stepped down as chair, was during all of these activities.

After this 12-day fiasco – one far more consequential than the stated reasons for Reemsnyder’s resignation – it is impossible to have confidence in the authority with its current staff and oversight.

Moving forward, you have to wonder why anyone would have confidence in the idea of a newly-created tolling authority, or any other quasi-public authority in the state of Connecticut — that would have made a great question for The Day reporter attending a recent event for the Connecticut Airport Authority in New London.

Although we are not entirely sure, there is reason to believe that this story is just beginning rather than ending. We intend to pursue it without partisanship, with diligence and care.