Tweed Airport Official’s Term Overstay Raises Questions About State Law

Tweed New Haven Airport (CT Examiner)


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NEW HAVEN — Questions linger over a Tweed New Haven Airport Authority official’s continued leadership past his term, without a clear explanation from the state.

Despite his term expiring this past June, Matthew Hoey remains chairman of the authority nine months later, as the South Central Regional Council of Governments seeks his replacement. While some neighbors who oppose the ongoing airport expansion have called for his immediate resignation, others have celebrated his continued leadership.

According to a 1997 law that created the airport authority, the 15 board members — appointed either by the New Haven mayor, the East Haven mayor or SCRCOG — can serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms. But when questioned about his extended tenure during a board meeting last week, Hoey, who is also Guilford’s first selectman, referenced a separate state law.

“There are Connecticut state statutes that allow for members to serve beyond near term expiration, and they serve until replaced,” Hoey told a meeting attendee.

According to state statute 4-1a, unless otherwise provided by law, appointed officials of the state, including those who serve on a board, commission and authority, shall continue to serve beyond their term until their successor is appointed.

Hoey said there are hundreds of instances in which members have served beyond their term in Connecticut, including the Public Utility Regulatory Authority, overseen by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. According to its website, two of the three commissioners have served on PURA for at least 11 years.

A spokesperson for Avports, Tweed’s airport management company, has also referred concerned residents to statute 4-1a, noting that the state seemingly allows members to continue beyond their terms for “continuity.” 

However, inquiries about whether the statute, which addresses “officials of the state” applies to Tweed board members, have gone unanswered by state agencies. 

A state official?

The 1997 Tweed law defines the authority as not being “a department, institution, or agency of the state.” Instead, it designates the authority as a “public instrumentality and political subdivision” of the state.

In past statements to CT Examiner, State Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, who co-sponsored the law, said he does not believe Tweed board members are state officials, as they are responsible to their appointing authorities: the city of New Haven, the town of East Haven and SCRCOG.

In a 2020 federal appellate case between Attorney General William Tong and the airport, attorneys representing Tweed agreed. While appealing a court decision that prohibited Tweed from lengthening its runway, attorneys Hugh Manke, Beth Brinkmann and Patricia King further clarified the members’ standing.

“No state official sits on the board of directors, and no state official or agency has authority to appoint any board member,” the attorneys wrote.

A spokesperson for Gov. Ned Lamont deferred comment on the matter to the Office of the Attorney General. Per state law, the attorney general must serve as legal counsel to “all state agencies.” But Elizabeth Benton, a spokesperson for Tong, explained that the office does not have the authority to issue an opinion on Tweed.

“Tweed is a quasi-public agency and not represented by our office. Therefore, it would be improper for us to provide any legal analysis,” Benton told CT Examiner.

On Tuesday, Looney conditionally backed Hoey’s right to serve beyond his term expiration, but expressed the desire for further research on how board members should be classified. 

“My understanding is that there is a provision for people to hold over once the term expires until a successor is appointed,” he said. “But obviously, the length of that holdover period is not specified, and the presumption is that it won’t be all that long.”

A pending appointment

Serving as one of the two members representing SCRCOG since 2015, Hoey assumed the role of board chairman in July 2023 — one month after his term expired.

While Hoey should be commended for his willingness to serve beyond the permitted eight years, Looney said, SCRCOG should comply with the state statute and appoint someone else. He added that SCRCOG leadership has assured him that they are looking for a qualified successor.

“It’s quite a significant holdover period,” he said. “But I think they’re much aware of that now and are working on it.”

When asked for comment, Hoey did not speak to the legality of his continued membership on the Tweed board, but rather pointed to his leadership throughout a major change to the airport.

At the time Hoey was appointed chair, the board was awaiting federal approval of a contested $165 million expansion, which includes a runway extension and a new terminal, parking garage and surface parking in East Haven. In December, the Federal Aviation Administration moved the project along, kickstarting the airport’s permitting process.

“I am proud to serve on the board of the Tweed New Haven Airport Authority, especially in a time of such exciting growth and success at the airport,” Hoey said. “I greatly appreciate the trust SCRCOG has placed in me. I am happy to serve through this important transition period.”

A spokesperson for Avports also highlighted the chairman’s accomplishments.

“As Tweed’s operator, we can say firsthand that the airport has been well-served by its dedicated board, and particularly their Chairperson Matt Hoey. Matt has overseen a period of important growth and change at Tweed, as the airport continues to transform into a more dynamic economic driver for East Haven, New Haven and the entire southern Connecticut region,” they said.

Carl Amento, executive director of SCRCOG, did not respond to a request for comment.