Editorial: Six Questions for the Connecticut Port Authority


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It seemed unlikely that Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder would have the last word with her announced resignation from the board and as chair of the Connecticut Port Authority following a growing media storm sparked by news that more than $3000 of public money was spent to purchase artwork by Erin Reemsnyder to decorate the authority’s Old Saybrook offices.

Now that Gov. Ned Lamont has joined Republicans and Democrats, including State Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), State Sen. Heather Somers (R-Groton), State Rep. Devin Carney (R-Old Lyme), in calling for hearings on the matter, I’d like to cautiously put forward a series of questions, which I think require answers at these hearings.

Why cautiously? Even with the evident and unacceptable stonewalling by Connecticut Port Authority officials – for nearly two weeks Reemsnyder and authority employee Andrew Lavigne each referred reporters to the other to answer questions and otherwise simply went into hiding – a strategy disavowed to CT Examiner staff by vice chair David Kooris — behind the scenes board members and employees express what appears to be genuine bewilderment at the growing scandal.

At this point, however, I think few would disagree that authority officials have exhausted the benefit of the doubt. At the minimum we would like to have clear and complete answers on the record to the following questions:

  1. Was there any attempt to punish a whistle-blower, or interfere with the ongoing whistle-blower investigation, at the Connecticut Port Authority?

  2. In the cases of Andrew Lavigne and Loren Dealy Mahler, what are their duties, how are they qualified to be employed by the authority, what was the process by which they were selected and hired by the authority, and how is their performance evaluated?

  3. In the case of former authority employee Gerri Lewis, on what basis did Lewis lose her job? Did authority Executive Director Evan Matthews seek formal or informal approval or advice on the actions or employment of Lewis from chairs Scott Bates or Bonnie Reemsnyder, or other members of the board or state officials, prior to Lewis’ loss of employment at the authority?

  4. An excess of a quarter-million dollars was bonded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation for dredging the Four Mile River and Black Hall River in Old Lyme. This money was transferred to an account at the Connecticut Port Authority. Recent efforts to repurpose these funds for a landing on the Lieutenant River in Old Lyme were tabled by the board, and apparently blocked by OPM.  Please explain the decision of the OPM.  Is it common practice for the authority to maintain designated leftover or residual funding for towns? If so, what other towns, what other leftover or legacy funding has been maintained or reused by the authority and what is the total amount of this funding?

  5. After recusing herself from decision-making regarding the roughly $250,000 legacy dredging funding for Old Lyme, did Old Lyme First Selectwoman and board chair Bonnie Reemsnyder either formally or informally contact OPM or other authority or government officials regarding the project funding, or attempt to influence decision-making regarding authority funding for Old Lyme?

  6. Regarding the proposed operator, wind power project, and State Pier, what was the process to seek bids for the future use and operation of the State Pier? What offers of funding or revenue were given to the authority prior selecting an operator and use for the State Pier?