Amidst Criticism and Funding Cuts, State Board Continues Investigation of Port Authority

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The State Contracting Standards Board has struggled under budget constraints to adjust to its newly-defined authority over the Connecticut Port Authority – but members of the board are pushing back against criticism that they don’t need to exist, and are defending the importance of their role in reviewing how state contracts are awarded. At a Sept. 21 Connecticut Port Authority Finance Committee meeting, Jeff Beckham, a member of the port authority board, said that the contracting standards board was “looking for a reason to exist” by renewing its investigation into the port authority, and said that members of that board

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State Senate Passes Bill to Reform Connecticut’s Port Authority

A bill meant to add transparency to the embattled Connecticut Port Authority passed the Connecticut Senate on Wednesday with the vocal support of southeastern Connecticut lawmakers. The bill – proposed by area lawmakers after several years of high profile issues tied to the quasi-public agency established in 2014 to manage the state’s ports – passed the Senate 34-0 on Wednesday. It still needs approval from the House. Along with giving the chief elected official of the three cities that host deep water ports in Connecticut a seat on the Port Authority Board of Directors, the bill would require the Port

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Diamantis Aims to Clear the Air After Contentious Port Authority Meeting

In an effort to clear the record after a contentious board meeting on Tuesday, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Policy and Management Kosta Diamantis told CT Examiner that rising cost estimates for redeveloping State Pier in New London were the direct result of efforts to be transparent with the public after early missteps by the previous administration. Diamantis told CT Examiner on Wednesday that the rising cost estimates are typical for construction projects, but that it’s not common to release early estimates based on incomplete designs.  Despite cost estimates that have risen from $93 million to $157 million to

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Legislators Offer Bills Aimed Connecticut Port Authority

HARTFORD — Financial transparency, board representation and a full accounting of all State Pier contracts and negotiations are among the demands of one bill taking a hard look at Connecticut Port Authority. The bill includes an “or else” if these tasks cannot be accomplished by asking the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation to explain how to return the duties of the authority to their original home at the department. “I signed on to that bill as a sort of a shot across the bow that the state really needs to look at this closely, I don’t think that

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Break Bulk Cargo to Stay a Part of State Pier Wind Project

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The transformation of State Pier into an offshore wind facility exclusive of other uses has been part of conversations at Connecticut Port Authority meetings for months, but a permit application made public yesterday from the Army Corps of Engineers specifies the continuing support of break bulk cargo operations.  “The purpose of this project is to create infrastructure in Connecticut that will serve as a long-term, regional wind turbine generator (WTG) port facility while at the same time continuing to support other existing long term break bulk operations for steel, coil steel, lumber, copper billets, as well as other cargo,” stated

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Connecticut Port Authority Approves Revised Wind Energy Plan for State Pier in New London

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HARTFORD — The Connecticut Port Authority unanimously approved a $157 million plan to reconfigure State Pier for use by offshore wind companies following discussions during two closed executive sessions at a special meeting Tuesday morning. David Kooris, chair of the authority, said the plan was “fundamentally different” from the $93 million memorandum of understanding announced by the State of Connecticut, Gateway Terminal, Ørsted and Eversource on May 2, 2019. Like the original project, the new facility will have heavy-lift capacity needed for offshore wind components, but will also include three berths designed not to conflict with Cross Sound Ferry’s routes

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Port Authority Turns to Connecticut Airport Authority for Staffing and Support

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NEW LONDON — For the duration of the search for a new executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, and possibly longer, the quasi-public agency will use and pay for the services of the Connecticut Airport Authority to supplement port authority staffing. That decision comes at the recommendation of the Office of Policy and Management, which was directed by Gov. Ned Lamont in July to take a direct role in restructuring the port authority. At a Tuesday meeting, board chair David Kooris explained the decision as a matter of efficiency rather than consolidation. “This would free the port authority and

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Former Connecticut Port Authority Officials Sharply Questioned in 8-hour Hearing

HARTFORD — In a grueling 8-hour session Wednesday, participants at the Transportation Committee’s hearing on the embattled Connecticut Port Authority revealed further details about the quasi-public agency’s financial and administrative woes. After testimony from three former authority officials, as well as the auditors of public accounts, the session culminated in a Lamont-directed plan to overhaul the troubled agency’s workings with an eye toward templating policies and procedures for quasi-publics across the state.  Since July, when Evan Matthews, the port authority’s former executive director, was placed on administrative leave, Bonnie Reemsnyder, then-chair of the board, was asked by Gov. Lamont to

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Statement by Scott Bates to the Transportation Committee Informational Forum

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December 4, 2019 Thank you Co-Chairs Leone and Lemar, and Members of the committee, My name is Scott Bates. I grew up in southeastern Connecticut near the banks of the Mystic River and the shores of Long Island Sound. I’m the son of a U.S. Coast Guard officer. My mother and her family made their home in New London.  I’ve always believed that it is an honor to serve one’s country and community.  That’s why, a few years ago when approached to accept an appointment to the Board of the newly formed Connecticut Port Authority, I was happy to accept

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Further notes from a conversation with Evan Matthews

Mystic — When CT Examiner talked with Evan Matthews, former executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, for nearly four hours on November 22, we whittled down the whopping 14,000-word conversation down to a publishable 2,300 words. In what remained of that 14,000-word conversation, Matthews discussed the port authority’s Finance Committee and its chair Bonnie Reemsnyder, cargo at State Pier and his desire to speak at the Transportation Committee’s port authority hearing in Hartford tomorrow. He said he did not speak at August 20 hearing on the advice of counsel.  Matthews was placed on administrative leave on July 12 and

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Letter: Kevin Blacker Responds to Matthews Interview

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I was puzzled by the CT Examiner’s decision to omit relevant information and not challenge Evan Matthews, former director of the CT Port Authority, for making a statement that was blatantly factually incorrect in his recent interview with CT Examiner.  In characterizing events that led to Matthews’ departure from CPA the Examiner allowed Matthews to downplay one lapse in judgement after another with no mention of the incident that immediately preceded his departure from the CT Port Authority: when Matthews publicly called me autistic and antisocial, after threatening a referral to law enforcement.  The Examiner also allowed Matthews to purport that Ørsted /Eversource

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Matthews, Former Connecticut Port Authority Head Defends Record, Will Testify

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MYSTIC — Evan Matthews, former executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, sat down with CT Examiner’s Cate Hewitt and Gregory Stroud on Sunday for a nearly four hour conversation ranging from details concerning the port authority during his tenure, his health, the wind deal at State Pier, to his hopes of clearing his name so that he can continue his maritime career.  The interview was the first time Matthews has spoken publicly since the port authority placed him on administrative leave on July 12 and subsequently forced him to resign on September 30. Matthews did not attend the Transportation

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Editorial: Four Hours with Former Connecticut Port Authority Head Evan Matthews

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Four hours with Evan Matthews on Sunday afternoon and I left convinced that – if the downside risk can be negotiated favorably — the delayed Eversource-Ørsted deal is a good (maybe great) deal for Connecticut. Certainly Matthews – an industry professional with years of relevant experience — believes it’s a good deal and feels blindsided, and aggrieved, by the sudden collapse of the Connecticut Port Authority, in his telling, just as he was hoping to wrap up negotiations on July 1. It’s the first time that Matthews has spoken publicly since July 12, when he was placed on paid leave

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Bates Will Speak at Transportation Committee Hearing on Port Authority

Scott Bates, Deputy Secretary of the State and former chair of the Connecticut Port Authority, said he will attend and speak at the December 4 Transportation Committee’s second informational forum regarding the Connecticut Port Authority and concerns about the state audit on the authority’s accounts. In an email to CT Examiner Saturday, Bates said he responded to an invitation from the Transportation Committee on Friday. “Last evening I received an invitation to attend and provide testimony at the Transportation Committee informational forum on Dec 4th regarding the Connecticut Port Authority,” Bates wrote. “I have conveyed to the Co-Chairs that I

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Editorial: 5 Questions, a Possible Criminal Referral, 220k in “Contributions from Developers”

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In case you didn’t know, an audit of the Connecticut Port Authority for fiscal years ending in 2018 and 2019 was released on October 31 — a Thursday. The timing was not a surprise – give or take a day – after State Comptroller Kevin Lembo (who has come across pretty darn well in this whole mess) gave the CPA just three days – until Friday, November 1 — to explain why the authority had failed to release accurate financials to his office.  The “incomplete” accounting of expenditures  – among other failings – were acknowledged in an October 18 letter

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Audit Details Lax Oversight, Excessive, Improper and Undocumented Expenses by Connecticut Port Authority

The Connecticut Port Authority spent thousands of dollars on restaurants, alcohol, and hotel rooms with little oversight or internal controls, according to a report by the State Auditors of Public Accounts released on Thursday. “Out of 252 transactions selected from CPA bank accounts, 52 (totaling $17,401) had no supporting documentation. Of the 52, 36 pertained to restaurant and hotel expenses, and 16 pertained to other expenses,” according to the report. Of 141 expenses for travel, food and entertainment expenses, totaling $21,977, the authority could not document 36 of the expenses, or $5,754. Seventeen of the transactions, or $2,701, had itemized

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New London’s Director of Planning and Development Praises Port Authority’s New Direction Under Kooris

NEW LONDON — When David Kooris became chair of the Connecticut Port Authority in July, communication “absolutely changed” from “zero” and “we’ll let you know” to negotiations that have dramatically opened up between the Ørsted-Eversource partnership and the City of New London, according to Felix Reyes, director of planning and development for the city. “Whatever we get is whatever we get and the day will come when we finalize that, but compared to when [former board chair] Scott [Bates]  and [former port authority executive director] Evan [Matthews] were there, there was more of an attitude of ‘we’re working on things,

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A Call For Connecticut Port Authority Hearings

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If you believe in the ability of government to accomplish great good – think Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — then it’s incumbent on you, when you see government misbehaving, to hold it accountable. To say that accountability has been lacking in the case of the Connecticut Port Authority is an understatement. If you think you know why the quasi-public agency, with oversight over millions of dollars of public money, all but dissolved this past summer, you are mistaken. Even David Kooris, the current acting chair of the port authority, by his own account has never once met with the

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State Pier Operator Boosts Connecticut Port Authority Plans for New London

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NEW HAVEN — “Fifteen years ago, the largest steel coil that was being brought off a ship was probably 15 tons. Today, you’re bringing in 30- to 35-ton coils of steel. The same thing with the heavy lifts, the cranes on the ships have gotten larger and larger, so port facilities have had to change to be able to handle those,” explained Gateway Terminal President James Dillman, an industry veteran and new hire by the New-Haven-based terminal operator. “It’s the same way with the container industry. Today the ships that are calling at container ports are almost three times as

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45-Day Window for Connecticut Port Authority Hearings

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It’s remarkable that former board chairs Scott Bates and Bonnie Reemsnyder have so far not answered a single substantive question from either the press or state legislators about their leadership roles in either the pending wind energy deal with Eversource and Ørsted, or in the near dissolution of the Connecticut Port Authority. The same can be said for Executive Director Evan Matthews, who for all we know may still be be drawing a salary from the state of Connecticut. In that regard, I’d like to join State Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and State Rep. Christine Conley (D-Groton) in calling for

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David Kooris Makes the Case for a “Niche Market” Wind Energy Deal for New London

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David Kooris walked into Muddy Waters Café on Bank Street in New London like a regular – a measure perhaps of the time he has spent as Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) acting as an ambassador, a fixer of sorts, for the Lamont administration on a joint wind energy deal based out of New London which for the last months has threatened to unravel.  The deal pairs a wind developer Ørsted, an energy supplier Eversource, a port operator Gateway New London LLC, and the quasi-public Connecticut Port Authority, in a near-term investment of about

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Public Turns Out in Support of Bay State Wind’s Energy Plans for New London’s State Pier

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NEW LONDON — At the Connecticut Port Authority’s informational meeting Tuesday night, community sentiment tilted heavily in favor of accepting a deal to build a joint Ørsted-Eversource wind power facility at State Pier in New London before that opportunity dissolves or finds a home elsewhere.  David Kooris, acting chair of the port authority, gave an upbeat presentation to standing-room-only audience of about 200 people on the proposed upgrade of the pier’s infrastructure and managed to pivot attention away from questions concerning the port authority’s personnel and finances — as well as documentation requests — that have yet to be clarified. 

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State Lawmakers Ask for Additional Hearing on Connecticut Port Authority, Note Lack of Documents

Two state lawmakers have requested that the Connecticut General Assembly’s Transportation Committee hold a follow-up hearing on the Connecticut Port Authority that would include testimony from past employees and board members who were not present at the August 20 hearing.  State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and state Representative Christine Conley (D-Groton) sent their request to Transportation Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) and Rep. Roland Lemar (D-New Haven) on Friday. “We now respectfully request that the Transportation Committee hold a second informational hearing and invite past and current board chairs and employees of the Port Authority to offer their opinions

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Port Authority Consultant Clarifies Contract, Role in Firing Gerri Lewis

An official at the Connecticut Port Authority confirmed Thursday that the organization hired a Human Resources consultant from March to July who helped craft a termination letter for Gerri Lewis, the authority’s office manager and ethics compliance officer who was fired on July 9.  Andrew Lavigne, manager of business development and special projects at the port authority, confirmed via email Thursday the hiring of HR consultant Diane Wolff of Karoli Consulting in Madison.   “The CT Port Authority entered into a consulting contract for HR support with Diane Wolff of Karoli Consulting on March, 25 2019. 16.5 hours of HR support was

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Ørsted and Eversource Pitch “Non-zero-sum Game” for Agreement with Port Authority

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It’s no wonder that Connecticut has a case of the flutters — with so much unknown to the public, and the Connecticut Port Authority and port operator Gateway New London LLC on the verge of signing a long-term lease and partnership agreement with Eversource and Ørsted that could reshape the economic future of New London, as well as energy production and prices for Connecticut. As Matthew Morrissey, Vice President and Head of New England Markets for Ørsted explained it, more than once, “it’s really not a zero-sum game.” At least as we understood his thinking, that was a way of

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Connecticut Port Authority Tries a Reboot, Votes to Negotiate Departure of Executive Director

NEW LONDON — In a public session with an agenda focused on issues of ethics and transparency, the Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) board approved several resolutions Wednesday overhauling oversight of its finance and management practices. The new policies come after the recent departure of port authority and staff and leadership, an audit detailing years of poor accounting practices, as well as reports of misused funds. After a closed executive session lasting 40 minutes, the board also voted in favor of negotiating a separation and release agreement without severance for the authority’s current executive director, Evan Matthews. Matthews has been on

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Notes From the Editor

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I am very excited to announce that on Friday we hired a third reporter with an immediate goal of increasing our coverage of Essex, Old Saybrook and East Lyme. He starts work for us on September 16. That follows a strong launch on May 20, stronger than anticipated growth over the last three months. Perhaps nowhere was that early success more apparent than on the editorial page of the The Day on Friday, where pointed criticism of the paper in an editorial earlier that morning sparked an unexpected change of course on the port authority issue. One more thing. We

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Connecticut Port Authority Retains $4.77 Million of Legacy Funds — Reallocations On Hold

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The Connecticut Port Authority retains $4.77 million of legacy funds leftover from eight municipal dredging projects dating from 2012 to 2016. The funds, administered in a state account, cannot be re-allocated for other maritime projects until approved by the State Bond Commission. The eight projects, totaling $30.39 million, had been administered by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT), and were completed under budget. After 2016 the Connecticut Port Authority became the administrator of maritime bond funding. Joe Salvatore, Program Manager of the Connecticut Port Authority, who emailed the list of municipalities with legacy balances to CT Examiner on Wednesday, said

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Deeply Wrong at The Day

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Let’s just say that it is an open secret that something is deeply wrong at The Day, from its wildly gyrating attitude toward the port authority story, to its sometimes snarling headlines, to its willful disregard for context at the expense of the truth. This is not a case of the blind leading the blind, it’s worse—the newspaper of record in southeast Connecticut eyes-wide-open walking off a cliff. “Gov. Lamont spits on New London” is perhaps the most egregious example of a headline by the paper’s much-read “news columnist,” David Collins. We’re not exactly sure what rules govern a news

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