Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Gov. Ned Lamont (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont announced investigations this week of incidents at both the Connecticut Port Authority and the Lottery, but an administration official confirmed Wednesday night that they’ll also be looking at other quasi-public agencies.

Lamont said the investigations into the Port Authority and Lottery after news reports that Port Authority Chairwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder used Authority funds to purchase six photographs taken by her daughter for $3,000. Reemsnyder, who is the Democratic first selectwoman of Old Lyme, resigned as chair of the Port Authority last week.

In addition, there have been reports about leadership strife within the Connecticut Lottery, and Lamont said Wednesday that he also wants to replace the lottery board’s leadership.

Connecticut’s Quasi-Public Agencies

• Access Health CT
• Connecticut Airport Authority
• Connecticut Green Bank
• Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority (CHEFA)
• Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority (CHESLA)
• Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA)
• Connecticut Innovations, Inc.(CI)
• Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA)
• Connecticut Lottery Corporation (CLC)
• Connecticut Port Authority
• Connecticut Student Loan Foundation (CSLF)
• Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA)
• State Education Resource Center

In a statement, the governor said the state’s 13 quasi-public agencies have been structured to be nimble and effective at responding to opportunity and also for rapid corrective action, when necessary, to maintain public trust and confidence.

“Sometimes intrusive leadership is required to make sure that happens, and now is one of those times,” Lamont said.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo also recently launched a website for the 13 quasi-public agencies that includes checkbook-level payment information, payroll data, and retiree pensions.

Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano commended Lamont for taking the first steps to investigate the two quasi-public agencies.

“I think an extensive review by the Executive Branch is a positive and long overdue first step,” Fasano said. “Past administrations never made a serious effort to address the problems associated with our quasi-public agencies.”

Lamont’s announcement about the investigation of the two agencies came before the Auditors of Public Accounts released their audit of the Connecticut Green Bank, which is included among the state’s quasi-publics.

The audit raised questions about severance payments related to the elimination of three positions. The payments equaled 26 weeks of salary for the three employees totaling $148,526. None of the three severance agreements were approved by the bank’s board of directors. The audit also questioned a transition agreement that allowed one of those employees to stay on board until vesting for retirement benefits.

The Connecticut Green Bank said they terminated the three employees in compliance with their handbook. An additional four employees were laid off in 2018 as a result of the legislature’s decision to sweep $16.3 million from the appropriation for the Green Bank.

The three positions were refilled by employees at much lower salaries and with less expensive benefits, saving the bank $139,066.

The three employees severed from the Connecticut Green Bank had collectively served the state for 36.5 years with total salaries of $297,051 and benefits of $237,369, receiving a maximum severance of $148,526 for 26 weeks of salary.

“Per the Severance Policy of the Green Bank, the Budget & Operations Committee can determine the nature and amount of the severance considering such factors as the length of service and circumstances of separation,” the Green Bank told auditors.

The Green Bank Board has since instructed staff that for any severances involving more than one person or one package with a value of more than $125,000, they will be brought forward for a review and approval by the Board of Directors.

“We have seen questionable severance payments before in the state’s quasi-publics,” Fasano said. “We all remember the debacle surrounding the departure of Anne Noble from the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, the $250,000 severance payment made to the former president and executive director of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, and the severance payments totaling over $376,000 for four senior level managers at Access Health CT, with some of these agreements including questionable nondisclosure language. These arrangements are what led Republicans to propose legislation requiring more oversight of such contracts.”

Fasano accused Democrats of ignoring the reforms proposed by Republicans over the past three years.