ctnewsjunkie file photo
Rep. Roland Lemar (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Following calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the co-chairs of the Transportation Committee have scheduled a second hearing on the Connecticut Port Authority.

Transportation Committee co-chairs, Sen. Carlo Leone and Rep. Roland Lemar, announced late Friday that they would hold an informational forum Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 10:30 a.m.

This forum will address concerns following the recent release of an audit by the Auditors of Public Accounts on the state’s port authority.

“The report is incredibly alarming and illustrates the improper manner in which the Connecticut Port Authority was operating,” Leone said. “As co-chair of the Transportation Committee, I am committed to correcting what has transpired with the Port Authority and ensuring it functions in the way as intended by the General Assembly and properly protect and invest in the ports and waterways of Connecticut.”

Lemar said they are “committed to working on viable solutions to ensure that the Port Authority operations contain provisions that will prevent similar situations that violate public trust.”

The second report from the Auditors of Public Accounts included 11 findings and revealed a number of issues including, but not limited to, a lack of statutorily required policies including procedures concerning the use of surplus funds.

The first Transportation Committee informational forum was held on August 20, 2019, to get a sense of how the state’s port authority would move forward. The informational hearing came after the Connecticut Port Authority’s executive director was placed on administrative leave and the board chair resigned.

The second audit released on Oct. 31 by the Auditors of Public Accounts was just as concerning as the first, which found no financial controls in place.

“This audit has produced a number of alarming findings, which reaffirms the original information presented by the auditors at our August hearing,” Sen. Cathy Osten and Rep. Christine Conley wrote last week in a letter to the Transportation Committee co-chairs. “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, which has its office in Old Saybrook, was created to manage five Connecticut ports. The authority came under fire earlier this year for a number of decisions that were made public.

Bonnie Reemsnyder, chair of the Connecticut Port Authority’s board, resigned following news reports about the authority’s expenditure of $3,250 to purchase photographic office art from her daughter through a decorator. Scott Bates, who approved the purchase of the art and also serves as Deputy Secretary of the State, also resigned his seat on the board. The $3,250 was refunded and the artwork was returned to the artist, according to Thursday’s audit.

In June, the authority placed its executive director, Evan Matthews, on paid administrative leave for “comments made to the press unbecoming of a public sector leader.”

The agency has remained under the oversight of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration since shortly after the news of the art purchases was reported.