“A positive development.” Senate GOP calls on AG to probe Port Authority.

March 4, 2021


Port Authority probe welcome

Waterbury Republican American editorial

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is investigating the controversy-plagued Connecticut Port Authority (CPA), The Associated Press reported in a story the Republican-American carried Feb. 26.

This is welcome news.

For the sake of all Connecticut stakeholders, Mr. Tong, the state’s top civil lawyer, should conduct a vigorous probe.

It would be nice if a criminal-law-enforcement entity also would investigate CPA.

Quasi-public CPA, based in Old Saybrook, has existed since 2014. It ostensibly “grow(s) Connecticut’s economy and creat(es) jobs by strategically investing in the state’s three deepwater ports (Bridgeport, New Haven and New London) and small harbors.” Yet since approximately 2019, CPA has been best known for its controversies, most of which involved money, personnel or both.

The latest controversy, disclosed in early February by The (New London) Day’s David Collins, involves a 2018 contract between CPA and New York-based Seabury Capital Group. Seabury received more than $700,000 from CPA, including a $523,000 “success fee.” Mr. Collins indicated this contract was signed months after Henry Juan III, then a Seabury managing director, resigned from the CPA board. This unsettling episode was the focus of our Feb. 15 editorial.

Feb. 16, Senate Minority Leader Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, and his top deputy, Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, wrote to Mr. Tong and requested he investigate CPA. 

Feb. 25, Mr. Tong wrote back to Sens. Kelly and Formica, and informed them he and his team have put CPA under a microscope, the AP reported. The Seabury affair featured prominently in the attorney general’s letter.

This is a positive development. 

The allegations against CPA are deeply troubling by any standard. 

Accordingly, Connecticut residents and businesspeople – the folks CPA is supposed to serve – are entitled to an investigation and, if warranted, justice. 

This is all the more true in light of Connecticut’s history with corruption, as this column has noted before. 

Mr. Tong, in his letter to Sens. Kelly and Formica, wrote, “I will take whatever action I am authorized to take to enforce the law.”

Hopefully, he will follow through.

For too long, CPA’s controversies have tarnished the state’s image, and that has to stop.

Mr. Tong’s investigation should not be the end of the matter.

Mr. Collins’ reporting on the Seabury affair suggests a criminal investigation also is warranted, as we detailed Feb. 15. At that time, we recommended an investigation by the FBI and the office of the Connecticut U.S. attorney, now headed on an interim basis by Leonard C. Boyle. We reiterate this call now. It also may be worthwhile for the office of the chief state’s attorney, headed by Richard J. Colangelo Jr., to examine CPA’s dealings.

Additionally, it is abundantly clear that CPA, and other quasi-public agencies, long have operated without sufficient controls.

Reform is necessary.

The legislature and Gov. Ned Lamont should enact legislation that would tighten ethics rules, and give the state attorney general and comptroller more “in-real-time” oversight. No one can change what has happened, but Connecticut government can and should set a course to better days for its quasi-public agencies.