The Pier and the probe, a tough juggling act

Trying to do two things at once is difficult, but that is the state's challenge.

It has to continue probing what went so wrong with the Connecticut Port Authority, whose charge includes operations at State Pier New London. At the same time it must be careful not to miss the opportunity to secure a bustling future for that facility for 20 years or more, while also assuring Connecticut doesn't get fleeced.

Maybe that's three things.

The administration of Gov. Ned Lamont is working to close the deal on a $93 million public-private partnership to make State Pier a hub of offshore wind development. What would a good deal look like? It would have safeguards that keep State Pier, to some reasonable extent, open to traditional cargo. It would make sure New London receives adequate compensation as host city. And it would have mechanisms in place to assure a substantial number of the jobs created are jobs for Connecticut citizens.

It is Lamont's burden to demonstrate he has obtained a good deal that protects the state's interests, a task made harder given the sloppy, arguably corrupt, performance of the port authority.

The legislature can play its part by providing the necessary oversight of the port authority, determining whether its actions in any way tainted the deal the executive branch is trying to close, and then closely examining and questioning the deal itself when details are made public, expected to be next month.

As noted in a prior editorial, the legislative probing of what went wrong at the Connecticut Port Authority should not end with the Transportation Committee hearing last Tuesday. The committee needs to ask those in leadership positions at the authority for the last few years why they failed to have proper accounting procedures in place and whether adequate steps were taken to address those shortcomings when they were brought to light. They need to answer to evidence that work was steered to associates of authority leaders.

This is important not only for accountability’s sake, but to direct the legislature toward possible reforms to improve the operations of this and other quasi-public agencies.

One more thing. We previously urged the committee to compel the testimony of former authority Chairman Scott Bates and Executive Director Evan Matthews, now suspended from that post. Some took us to task for not also demanding that Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who followed Bates as chair and who chaired the finance committee, be required to testify.

She should. Her written testimony does not suffice. In fact, the committee should require the testimony of all who they consider necessary to fully get at the truth. What the committee should not do is nothing and consider a single hearing was enough.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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