The legislature’s Transportation Committee held a public hearing to learn more about the leadership changes and financial issues within the quasi-public agency responsible for overseeing the states three deep water ports and several inland river ports and harbors.
The Port Authority was created in 2014 and began operations in 2016.
In recent months, the Port Authority has seen its’ Executive Director placed on administrative leave, the resignation of its chairwoman after it was learned the agency spent $3,000 on photographs taken by her daughter for the office and no bid contracts went to close associates of the vice chairman.
Governor Lamont has stepped in by putting high ranking administration officials in charge of trying to right the ship.
Chief Operating Officer Paul Mounds told lawmakers that the governor is taking it seriously.
“The governor believes there should be tighter governance and accountability measures which universally oversee the quasi-public agency,” said Mounds during testimony. “And will work with the legislative leaders to develop that oversight.”
State auditors testified for hours about what they found while compiling their audit report. Deputy State Auditor John Rasimas said one of the most alarming findings is that the agency doesn’t have any accounting methods.
“Our initial report raised concerns related to internal controls of the authority, said Rasimas. “And management received a complaint, a whistleblower complaint in late May, related to mismanagement and misuse of funds.”
None of the former leadership at the center of the scandals showed up to the hearing. GOP House Minority Leader Themis Klarides told reporters prior to the hearing that the key players need to answer questions. She questioned why thousands of dollars were spent on iPhone pictures and why the agency needed to hire an out-of-state interior designer with connections to board members for twice the market rate.
“What you all don’t know is that there is a new installment of the housewives,” quipped Klarides. “The housewives of New London and this is what it is.”
The newly appointed acting director of the Port Authority David Kooris says changes will take place.
“We’re rolling up our sleeves and just getting our hands around the issues at the Port Authority,” said Kooris. “In short order we’re putting corrections in place to reposition the authority to achieve its lofty objectives.”
The Port Authority is involved in a potential $93 Million deal with a foreign wind energy producer that the Lamont Administration considers a top priority. The deal has not been finalized.
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