A former member of the board of the Connecticut Port Authority agreed to pay $18,500 to settle allegations that he tried to influence the quasi-public to give work to his own company.
Henry Juan III agreed to pay the settlement without acknowledging guilt for what the state alleged were violations of state ethics rules for lobbyists and public officials. It’s the latest penalty in the ongoing saga over the Port Authority’s decision to give Seabury Maritime Capital a $523,000 “success fee” as part of a contract to find an operator for the New London State Pier in 2018.
The Office of the Attorney General William Tong told CT Examiner on Monday that the investigation of the five-year-old contract remains open.
In 2022, Seabury – the company co-founded by Juan – agreed to pay a $10,000 fine after the Office of State Ethics determined that the company gave $3,000 of improper gifts to Port Authority officials while competing for a contract with the quasi-public.
Juan served on the Port Authority Board from March 2016 to February 2018, when he resigned shortly before Seabury was awarded the contract to find a port operator. He co-founded Seabury a few months after joining the board, and by January 2017 Seabury was looking to get a piece of the State Pier project, according to the Office of State Ethics.
According to the settlement, Juan said he has worked exclusively in the private sector before taking the volunteer Port Authority Board position. He said he thought working with Seabury would be allowed as long as he disclosed it to the board and recused himself from any votes that involved his company.
Juan argued that he didn’t receive any financial gain from serving on the board, and that Seabury wasn’t awarded any contracts until after he resigned from the board. He said he had a 0.00016 percent ownership in Seabury, and was never paid any bonuses other than his annual salary.
According to the settlement agreement, the office alleged that Juan used his access to Port Authority staff and fellow board members to try to influence them to select Seabury in a 2017 request for proposals for “advisory services” on the State Pier project. And the office said Juan pushed for Seabury to be awarded subcontracts once that was given to another business.
The Office of State Ethics concluded that Juan continued to use his position on the board to “negotiate with the [Port Authority] to secure future payments for [Seabury] for actions that [Juan] had taken as a CPA Board member,” and disclosed confidential Port Authority information to Seabury. The office also concluded that his communications with Port Authority staff and board members on behalf of his company constituted lobbying, and they alleged that Juan violated state law by failing to register as a lobbyist.
Along with Juan’s involvement in the company, the Seabury contract has been questioned for including a $523,000 success fee, which the State Contracting Standards Board said amounted to a “finder’s fee” prohibited by state law, or at least was bad practice by a quasi-public agency holding an open bid.
That deal is at least one target of the Attorney General Tong’s investigation of the Connecticut Port Authority. In 2021, Tong announced that he had begun investigating the authority, and the Seabury contract in particular, in 2019 shortly after state auditors outlined potential legal and ethical issues in the Port Authority’s contracting practices.
On Monday, Tong’s office declined to comment further on that investigation, saying only that the “investigation is open.”