Termed a “forum” on the meeting agenda, the scheduled Connecticut Port Authority hearings on Tuesday in Hartford will be informational in nature and most likely will not involve questioning of port authority officials, according to one state official.
“People are expecting it to be sort of a Capitol Hill inquisition — I think they are under the wrong impression,” said Roland Lemar, House chair of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, in a phone interview Wednesday.
Lemar co-chairs the Transportation Committee, which is holding the forum, with Senate Chair Carlo Leone. Both will present remarks on Tuesday.
A presentation by the Auditors of Public Accounts will follow. The bipartisan agency is tasked with auditing state agencies. The state auditors are Democrat John Geragosian and Republican Robert J. Kane.
Paul Mounds Jr., Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief of Staff at the Office of the Governor will then make a statement to the committee. David Kooris, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, who serves as acting chair of the port authority, will then have a chance to respond.
The committee is then expected to adjourn.
Lemar said the committee will not require that any officials central to newspaper reports of misused authority funding, or still unexplained personnel changes at the authority, will attend.
A whistleblower complaint regarding the authority was filed on May 23. Scott Bates stepped down as chair of the port authority board on June 19. Bonnie Reemsnyder, who replaced Bates as chair, resigned on July 24. Executive Director Evan Matthews was placed on administrative leave on July 18. Bates resigned from the board on August 9.
“It is not my understanding that they will attend. We have not compelled them to attend, which was an authority that we have but we have chosen not to exercise it at this point,” said Lemar.
Describing Tuesday’s session as “more of an informational hearing,” Lemar said it was a first step in addressing concerns that legislators have with the port authority as it is currently constructed as well as determining if there are changes necessary in the authority’s government structure or reporting structure.
“There are numerous months during which the investigation takes place, there’s a lot of information that we’ll uncover in different formats, but for now we just want to get a sense for what has happened over the last few months and year,” Lemar said. “We will try to understand what the auditors of public accounts have and what the governor’s office and port authority themselves are doing to address concerns that legislators have.”
In particular the committee will pay attention to findings from the Auditor of Public Accounts, Lemar said.
“They have investigated the port authority and have issued a number of recommendations and we want to delve into those recommendations and understand their concerns,” he said.
State Rep. Devin Carney (R-Old Lyme), who first called for the hearing with State Senators Heather Somers (R-Groton) and Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), said he had questions concerning finances, personnel and the long-term functionality and transparency of the agency.
“I’m looking for answers to some of the issues that have been going on. Why were certain hires made, certain purchases made,” Carney said by phone Wednesday. “And most importantly, how are we going to recover from this? What is the current and existing board going to do to make sure it never happens again?”
The hearing will be held Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building, Room 1E, located at 300 Capital Ave., Hartford.