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Stefanowski calls out Connecticut Port Authority, Lamont over State Pier redevelopment

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Brian Scott-Smith
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WSHU
Bob Stefanowski, GOP candidate for governor of Connecticut, during a visit to State Pier in New London.

Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate for governor of Connecticut, criticized the state’s overspending in the redevelopment of State Pier to hub for the offshore wind industry.

Stefanowski, during a visit to New London Thursday, called out the Connecticut Port Authority and Governor Ned Lamont over the project’s $255 million price tag — nearly triple its original cost.

He called the project part of Lamont’s ‘corruption tax’

“What should the governor do?” Stefanowski asked. “There’s an FBI investigation. There's subpoenas. There’s FOI requests that never get filled. We all know what’s going on. He’s trying to bury this until after the election. Every single one of you knows that. Because he knows it is not going to look good.”

Stefanowski refers to the recent scandal involving a now-ousted port authority board member who — along with two other former and current employees — accepted illegal gifts from a vendor seeking business. Seabury LLC was fined $10,000 by the Office of State Ethics in July.

It’s the latest in the quasi-public agency’s checkered history since launching a public-private partnership to redevelop State Pier in 2019. The Connecticut Port Authority has had three executive directors either resign or be ousted since then.

Earlier this year, the State Contracting Standards Board found the agency lacked the authority to enter in a major offshore wind energy project with Eversource and Ørsted. The state standards board also questioned the success fee rewarded to Seabury, which is under investigation by the state attorney general.

At a recent board meeting, Ulysses Hammond, the port authority’s interim executive director, said a third of construction at the State Pier have run into difficulties and run behind schedule in the last month. That could make project costs increase, as they have in the past.

Stefanowski also questioned how Scott Bates, the state’s Deputy Secretary of the State, and a former chairman of the port authority, has remained on the public payroll despite rising project costs.

“How is that the former chairman of the port authority, Scott Bates, is still being paid by the taxpayers of Connecticut? [He’s] assistant director or whatever he is to the Secretary of the State,” Stefanowski said. “This is classic political patronage. It gets back to leadership. Leadership is about holding people accountable. Leadership is about sending a message to the rest of the organization that we will not tolerate fraud.”

In response, Lamont said the scandals predate his administration. He has since appointed David Kooris as the chair of the port authority

“I think the day that David Kooris came in and took over, which was three years ago, we got the plan in place,” Lamont said Thursday. “I think he’s delivered on that plan. He's done extraordinary work. We got a new executive director there.”

Lamont blasted Stefanowski for trying to make ground in an election that he appears to have lost footing in. Stefanowski, who is the state Republican Party endorsed candidate, was dropped from the Independence Party ballot line earlier this week.

Stefanowski has been critical of the third-party’s nomination process from start to finish, saying his name wasn’t even on the ballot paper. “So, in order for me to get a vote they had to write in Stefanowski, and they had to spell it correctly and if one letter was off the ballot was thrown out. Even chairman [Mike] Telesca has admitted he violated the rules,” he said. “So, we’re going to have the lawyers look at it and this, I know it’s partly about me.”

Stefanowski has asked that all ballot papers and other materials related to the nominating caucus be preserved ahead of any lawsuit. He alleged violations of party rules in a tie-breaking vote that denied him a cross endorsement and second line on the November ballot.

Lamont called him a sore loser for threatening a lawsuit.

“The Independent Party voted. They wanted to have their own independent line. And Bob competed. They competed. And the Independent Party elected to go a different way,” Lamont said. “It sounds a little like Trump. ‘Ooh I deny the election. I’m going to bring a lawsuit.’”

“We don’t need that,” he added.

To the Lamont campaign, their opponent is following the national Republican Party agenda, even as Stefanowski appears to be distancing himself from President Donald Trump.

When asked about Leora Levy, the winner of the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, who Trump endorsed, Stefanowski said on Thursday that he has a game plan — even without the MAGA following.

“My game plan for election day is to focus on the taxpayers and residents of Connecticut and making their lives better,” he said. “And lowering the cost to live here. And making it safe as crime is absolutely out of control.

“You’ve got more homicides in Hartford this year than we had all year last year. And my job is to give parents back the right to raise their kids and get government out of the way. And leave family issues as family issues at the kitchen table and talk about reading, writing and arithmetic in school.”

Stefanowski received Trump’s endorsement when he first ran for governor in 2018 but for the rematch against Lamont, his campaign confirmed Stefanowski is not seeking Trump’s support this time around.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.
As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.