Courtesy of the CT Port Authority website
New London Harbor (Courtesy of the CT Port Authority website)

HARTFORD, CT —  Democratic lawmakers are calling on the co-chairs of the Transportation Committee to hold more informational hearings about the most recent audit of the Connecticut Port Authority.

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, wrote their Democratic colleagues, Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, and Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, to ask them to “hold a second informational hearing.”

Ideally, Osten and Conley believe the hearing should be held within the next two weeks.

“We also believe past and current board chairs and employees of the Port Authority should be required to attend to offer their opinions on what went wrong at the Port Authority, and what we as legislators can do to correct or prevent such occurrences in the future,” the two said in their letter.

Democratic lawmakers aren’t the only ones calling for a second hearing. Republicans want one, too.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said he’s disappointed that the Transportation Committee chairs won’t hold a second public hearing.

“While Republican ranking members do not have the authority to convene a public hearing, you do have the authority to call a public informational hearing which will allow us to invite and discuss these serious issues and allegations with staff and board members,” Fasano said.

Lemar doesn’t believe a second public hearing is warranted at the moment.

Fasano said the whistleblower should also be allowed to address the committee.

“Any whistleblower should be heard and given the opportunity to share what they know and allegedly witnessed. And any past leader of the Port Authority needs to be held accountable and answer questions as well as be given the opportunity to explain the full situation from their perspective,” Fasano said.

Lemar said the whistleblower complaint related to the authority has been turned over to the Attorney General’s office for investigation. That investigation will need to be completed before lawmakers get information about it.

Lemar said the authority has hired an independent auditor and they want to wait for the results of all the audits before holding another public hearing.

He said he understands that his colleagues want to know the extent of the financial mismanagement and lack of board oversight plaguing the authority. He does too, but the role of the Transportation Committee is not to conduct a criminal investigation.

“Our role is to craft policy solutions to help the authority govern itself better,” Lemar said.

The second audit by the Auditors of Public Accounts was concerning.

“This audit has produced a number of alarming findings, which reaffirms the original information presented by the auditors at our August hearing,” Osten and Conley wrote. “It is clearly evident that improvements need to be made. These areas include a lack of statutorily required policies, including procedures concerning the use of surplus funds, affirmative action, and annual ethics training for employees; inconsistent or nonexistent records management or financial accounting systems; a lack of an established protocol surrounding meal, travel, and entertainment expenses; and expenses regarding legal and consulting fees that are beyond the norm.”

Excessive legal, travel, and meal expenses are just some of the things the Auditors for Public Accounts found in their second look into the Connecticut Port Authority’s finances.

The quasi-public agency created to manage five Connecticut ports came under fire earlier this year for a number of decisions that were made public.

The auditors made 11 findings as part of their second audit of the authority.