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Attorney General Tong refused to investigate antitrust complaint about State Pier

I thought Attorney General William Tong couldn't have shown his partisan prejudice and dereliction of duty more decisively in regards to the scandals at New London's State Pier than when he refused to release whistleblower complaints about corruption at the Connecticut Port Authority, run by Democratic Party cronies.

The attorney general, who is supposed to protect the public, did his best to nail shut the lid on disclosure of port authority corruption, arguing recently before the Freedom of Information Commission that the whistleblower complaints about misuse of funds that his office received and did not act on should be forever withheld from the public.

But then someone shared with me some correspondence sent to Tong over the summer, laying out complaints of antitrust practices that threaten to put out of business a 15-person road salt firm operating at State Pier in New London and drive up the cost of snow removal in towns throughout the region.

A Tong spokesman, responding to my questions about the July request for an investigation of what's going on at State Pier, said by email Tuesday that nothing was done.

The attorney general didn't even respond in writing to the letter from the victim's lawyer that asked for an investigation.

I have never seen anything in Connecticut government approaching the partisan prejudice and dereliction of duty shown by Tong, in not even investigating the complaint about illegal antitrust activities sanctioned by an agency that shares leadership with the Democratic State Central Committee.

Honestly, it wouldn't take a Connecticut third grader long to see the warning signs of illegal antitrust activity at State Pier, where a private company, with the help of a state-funded agency, is putting a competitor out of business, taking exclusive control of a market and thereby raising prices.

But don't take my word for it.

The July 7 letter of complaint to Tong, a plea for help and justice really, was written by Robert M. Langer of the statewide law firm of Wiggin and Dana, co-chairman of the firm's Anti-Trust and Consumer Protection Group and a former Connecticut assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust matters and consumer protection in the state for two decades.

That was back when we had attorney generals with character, more interested in protecting consumers and ferreting out wrongdoing than keeping a lid on corruption at agencies run by prominent Democrats.

Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo is a longtime member of the port authority board, helping preside over the containment of scandals and keeping a blind eye toward antitrust allegations.

Langer was hired by DRVN Enterprises Inc., an entrepreneurial company that had challenged the monopoly on road salt enjoyed by Gateway Terminal of New Haven, operator of the privately run port of New Haven.

DRVN, delivering competition to the road salt business in the state, driving down prices that towns pay, originally was lured to New London by the former port operator, Logistec.

When the port authority took management of the New London port away from Logistec, the agency gave it to politically connected Gateway, which not only runs the only other competing deepwater port in the state but also the monopolistic salt business challenged by DRVN.

Gateway, according to a letter Langer wrote to the port authority board of directors, with a copy sent to Tong, likely will increase road salt prices in the state if it succeeds in eliminating DRVN as a competitor.

Langer goes on to outline what he calls "immoral, unethical, oppressive and unscrupulous" practices that are driving DRVN to bankruptcy right under the port authority's nose.

Some of the practices described by Langer sound like the stuff of waterfront thugs, denying personnel to unload a DRVN ship, delaying lease negotiations for months, underbidding projects that "may evidence predatory pricing" and increasing fees by 55%.

Attorney General Tong doesn't care, though, about a Connecticut company that is making a credible claim that it is being illegally driven out of business, putting more than a dozen people out of work. He apparently doesn't care if it raises town public works costs and maybe even local taxes.

He won't even investigate.

Shame on him and all the Democrats who have stood by and let it happen.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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